A refugee fleeing Kherson (Photo: Epa/Roman Pilipey/Ansa)

The Pope's letter to the people of Ukraine

Nine months after the outbreak of war, Francis writes a lengthy message to the citizens of the battered country. "Your pain is my pain."
Pope Francis

Dear Ukrainian brothers and sisters,

For a full nine months, the absurd folly of war has been unleashed upon your land. Your skies have constantly echoed the grim sound of explosions and the alarming wail of sirens. Your cities have been hammered by bombs, as a shower of missiles has caused death, destruction and sorrow, hunger, thirst and freezing cold. Great numbers of people have taken flight into your streets, leaving behind their homes and their dear ones. Alongside the great rivers of your nation, great streams of blood and tears flow daily.

I would like to add my own tears to yours, and to assure you that I am daily close to you and bear you in my heart and in my prayers. Your pain is my pain. Today, in the cross of Jesus, I see all of you who are experiencing the terror unleashed by this aggression. Truly, the cross, the instrument of the Lord’s torture, is present anew in the signs of torture found on corpses, in the mass graves discovered in different cities, and in so many other brutal images that leave us appalled and make us cry out, “Why? How can human beings treat other human beings in this way?”

I think often of the many tragic stories that I have heard, especially those involving little ones: how many children have been killed, wounded or orphaned, torn from their mothers! With you, I weep for every child killed in this war, like Kira in Odessa, like Lisa in Vinnytsia, like hundreds of other children. In each of them, our very humanity has been deeply scarred. Now they are in God’s arms; they see our struggles and pray that they may soon be ended. Yet how can we fail to feel anguish for their loss and for all those others, young and old, who have been deported? The pain felt by the mothers of Ukraine is incalculable.

I think too of you, young people, who in courageous defence of your homeland have had to take up arms rather than pursue your cherished dreams for the future. I think of you, wives who have lost your husbands, gritting your teeth and quietly carrying on with dignity and determination, and making every sacrifice possible for your children. I think of you adults, who strive in every way possible to protect your dear ones; and you, the elderly, who instead of enjoying a peaceful old age have been cast into the dark night of war. I also think of you, women who were victims of violence and bear immense burdens in your heart, and of all who are pained in soul and body. I think of you and I am close to you, with affection and admiration for the way you are facing such bitter trials [...]

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