Pope Francis Rallies Free The World To Support Ukraine

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In weekend remarks, Pope Francis once again called for action to assist the Ukrainian civilians suffering through Russia’s invasion. He singled out Mariupol, a large Ukrainian city that before the war had a population of well over 400,000 but has since been systematically attacked for months, leaving tens of thousands apparently dead and some 100,000+ survivors trapped in the mostly Russian-controlled city, having lost access to necessities such as running water and food. Francis also spoke of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, where hundreds of civilians have been trapped alongside hundreds of Ukrainian service members. The large plant became one of the final local sites for confrontation between Russian and Ukrainian troops, and as elsewhere, the Russian strikes on the premises have proven devastating. Francis remarked:

‘My thought goes to the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, “Mary’s city”, barbarically bombed and destroyed. Once again, from here, I renew my request that safe humanitarian corridors be arranged for the people trapped in the steelworks in that city. I suffer and weep, thinking of the sufferings of the Ukrainian people, and in particular, the weakest, the elderly and children. There are even terrible reports of children being expelled and deported.’

Speaking of the push for peace, the Pope added this weekend as follows:

‘And while we are witnessing a macabre regression of humanity, I wonder, along with so many anguished people, if peace is truly being sought; whether there is the will to avoid a continued military and verbal escalation; whether everything possible is being done to silence the weapons. I beg you, let us not surrender to the logic of violence, to the perverse spiral of weapons. May the path of dialogue and peace be taken!’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke this Sunday of an evacuation effort for civilians who’d been trapped at the Azovstal plant. “Evacuation of civilians from Azovstal began,” he said. “The 1st group of about 100 people is already heading to the controlled area. Tomorrow we’ll meet them in Zaporizhzhia. Grateful to our team! Now they, together with #UN, are working on the evacuation of other civilians from the plant.” Four so-called filtration camps have been reported to be operating around Mariupol. Russian forces have searched among detainees at these camps for “any supposed links to the legitimate Ukrainian government or to independent media outlets,” as U.S. official Michael Carpenter, who serves as ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), explained. Some of those suspected of those links have apparently been tortured and killed. As Carpenter summarized the situation, “Our information indicates Russia is abducting, torturing, and/or murdering locally elected leaders, journalists, and civil society activists, as well as religious leaders.”