Pope Francis pleads with world leaders to ‘not lead humanity to ruin’ amid Ukraine war

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June 5 (UPI) — Pope Francis on Sunday reiterated his calls for a diplomatic end to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, pleading with world leaders to “not lead humanity to ruin.”

“I renew my appeal to those who govern nations: do not lead humanity to ruin. Please! Do not lead humanity to ruin!” Francis said Sunday after the recitation of the Regina Coeli prayer.

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“Carry out real negotiations, concrete talks for a ceasefire and for a sustainable solution. Listen to the desperate cry of the people who are suffering. We see it every day in the media. Respect human life. Stop the macabre destruction of cities and villages everywhere.”

Friday marked the 100 days since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 and the pontiff has been a vocal critic of the war since it began.

“But today, 100 days from the invasion in beloved Ukraine, the nightmare of a new war has again fallen on humanity,” he said.

“This is the denial of God’s dream: peoples who fight, peoples who kill each other, persons whom — instead of growing closer — are forced from their homes.”

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Francis’ comments throughout the invasion have stood in direct contrast to those made by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, head of the Russian Orthodox Church and a close ally of President Vladimir Putin.

Kirill, believed to have profited from his ties to Putin, escaped the latest round of European Union sanctions last week meant to punish Russia for the war in Ukraine, Fortune reported.

“It is my firm belief that its initiators are not the peoples of Russia and Ukraine, who came from one Kyivan baptismal font, are united by common faith, common saints and prayers, and share common historical fate,” Kirill said in a letter in March.

“The origins of the confrontation lie in the relationships between the West and Russia. By the 1990s Russia had been promised that its security and dignity would be respected. However, as time went by, the forces overtly considering Russia to be their enemy came close to its borders.”

Russian missiles on Sunday targeted the Ukraine capital Kyiv for the first time since April 29.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky blasted Russia on Sunday for the destruction of Skete of All Saints, the largest wooden church in Ukraine, which burned down in the Svyatohirsk Lavra in the Donetsk region after Russian shelling.

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Zelensky said that Russia has destroyed and damaged 113 churches including “ancient ones” that he said have “withstood World War II but did not withstand the Russian occupation.”