The pontiff greeted refugee children from Ukraine and called for an “end to this war.”
Denouncing an “ever more horrific cruelty” perpetrated on Ukrainian soil, Pope Francis unfurled and kissed a flag of Bucha, during the general audience on April 6, 2022. The “innocent blood” of the hundreds of civilian corpses found there after the Russian army withdrew “cries out to heaven,” said the pope, who invited Ukrainian children to come and surround him on the podium in Paul VI Hall.
“The recent news about the war in Ukraine, rather than bringing relief and hope, instead attests to new atrocities, such as the massacre in Bucha,” the pontiff lamented after his catechesis. The head of the Catholic Church spoke out against this cruelty shown “against defenseless civilians, women and children”, whose blood “implores an end to this war, to silence the weapons, to stop sowing death and destruction”.
“Yesterday, this flag was brought to me,” said the Pope after a time of silent prayer with the crowd. The green-and-blue flag was greeted by the applause from the thousands in attendance. “This flag comes from the war, from this martyred city, Bucha,” said the pontiff, who a moment later kissed the cloth.
Turning to a group of refugees in the front row, Pope Francis brought seven Ukrainian children of all ages around him, to whom he distributed chocolate eggs. The children, accompanied by their mothers, held up a drawing depicting Italy’s welcome.
“These children had to flee and arrive to a foreign land, this is one of the fruits of war. Let’s not forget them and let’s not forget the Ukrainian people,” the Pope recommended, and saddened: “How hard it is to be uprooted from your land because of a war.
Reports of civilian bodies found in Bucha have spurred international outrage in recent days. A provisional assessment suggests that there could be as many as 300 dead in the wake of the Russian invasion. Pope Francis was informed of this development on the plane back from Malta on April 3, by a journalist. The pontiff thanked him for the news, which he had not yet heard.