Pope says Ukraine not military operation, but 'war that sows death'.
At the Angelus, Francis condemns the "rivers of blood and tears" caused by Moscow's conflict against Kiev, "madness". He recalls the "ever more numerous" victims and "mothers and children" fleeing. Assistance and humanitarian corridors are needed. The Holy See's mediation for peace. Commenting on today's Gospel, he warns: no dialogue or compromise with the devil, but "the Word of God".
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "Rivers of blood and tears flow" in Ukraine and what is being fought is not "a military operation" but "a war that sows death, destruction and misery". The victims are "ever more numerous" as are "people fleeing, especially mothers and children".
Today at the Angelus, Pope Francis returned to condemn in the harshest terms the war - now in its tenth day - launched by Russia on Ukraine, a country he describes as "martyred" and in which "the need for "humanitarian assistance" is dramatically increasing by the hour. At the end of the Marian prayer, the Pontiff addressed a long reflection on the conflict on Europe's doorstep, which he describes as "a madness" that generates only "cruelty".
To the faithful in St Peter's Square, coloured by Ukrainian and peace flags, the Pope made a "heartfelt appeal" to "truly ensure humanitarian corridors" and "access to aid" for "vital assistance to brothers and sisters oppressed by bombs and fear". The opening of corridors to bring relief to an exhausted population was announced at the weekend, but words were not followed by deeds and the bombings continued.
The attack launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin against Kiev has already caused over one and a half million refugees, triggering a new humanitarian tragedy. The Pontiff thanked those "who are taking in refugees", and above all "I implore that armed attacks cease, that negotiation and good sense prevail and that international law be respected once again".
The Pope also wanted to thank the "journalists" who "in order to guarantee information put their lives at risk" and make it possible "to be close to the tragedy of the population and assess the cruelty of war", as well as recalling his "visit to Iraq a year ago". Asking to pray to "Our Lady Queen of Ukraine", Pope Francis concluded by saying that the Holy See is willing "to do everything to put itself at the service of peace" and for this reason he has sent "two cardinals" in recent days. They are the almoner of His Holiness Card. Konrad Krajewski and the interim Prefect of the Dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development Card. Michael Czerny to bring "the presence of the Pope and of all the Christian people".
Before the Angelus prayer, commenting on the Gospel of the first Sunday of Lent that "takes us into the desert, where Jesus is led by the Holy Spirit for forty days to be tempted by the devil," the Pope warned: "No compromises with evil!". "We must not dialogue with evil, we must not fall into that sleep of conscience that makes us say: 'in the end, it's not serious, everyone does it'". On the contrary, he points to Jesus "who does not seek accommodation, does not deal with evil" and "opposes the devil with the Word of God" and "overcomes temptation".
Taking up Luke's Gospel, the Pontiff recalls that "the desert symbolises the struggle against the seductions of evil, in order to learn to choose true freedom. Jesus, in fact, lives the experience of the desert just before beginning his public mission".
The devil, continues the Pope, "twice" turns to him asking if he is the Son of God and, in that case, invites him to take advantage of him, "that is, 'think of your own profit'. It is a seductive proposal, but it leads - he warns - to slavery of the heart: it makes one obsessed with the desire to have, it reduces everything to the possession of things, of power, of fame. This is the nucleus of temptation. It is 'the poison of the passions' in which evil takes root.
In the face of temptation, however, we have the example of Jesus who "opposes the lure of evil in a winning way" and does so "by responding with the Word of God" which says "not to use God, others and things for oneself, not to exploit one's own position to acquire privileges". For the Pope, happiness and freedom "do not lie in possessing, but in sharing: not in taking advantage of others, but in loving them; not in the obsession with power, but in the joy of service".
At the beginning of the Lenten period, Francis recalls that temptations also accompany us on the journey of life" with "sweet eyes", with "an angelic face". The devil, he warns, "even knows how to disguise himself with sacred, apparently religious motivations!" and "if we give in to his flattery, we end up justifying our falsehood, disguising it with good intentions".
Finally, the Pontiff indicates some practical gestures to live this time of fasting and prayer leading up to Easter in the best possible way: "Let this time of Lent also be a time of desert for us. Let us take some time for silence and prayer, during which we can stop and look at what is stirring in our hearts. Let us make inner clarity, placing ourselves before the Word of God in prayer, so that a beneficial fight against the evil that enslaves us, a fight for freedom, may take place within us. Let us ask the Blessed Virgin - concludes Pope Francis - to accompany us in the Lenten desert and to help us on our journey of conversion".