Pope Francis could not hold back his tears as he spoke of the war in “martyred” Ukraine during a public ceremony in central Rome on Thursday afternoon.
“I would have liked to bring you today the thanks of the Ukrainian people…” the pope said at the traditional homage to the Virgin Mary during the feast of the Immaculate Conception, before interrupting his address, shaken with emotion.
His body jerked. He remained silent for several seconds, then the crowd applauded him warmly. He then resumed his speech, leaning on the arm of his chair but remaining upright.
“…of the Ukrainian people for the peace for which we have been asking the Lord for some time,” the pope continued.
“I must, however, again present to you,” he added, his voice still altered by emotion, “the entreaties of the children, the elderly, the fathers and mothers, the young people of that martyred land who are suffering so much.”
Already, in his public Angelus prayer at midday in St Peter’s Square, the Pope had evoked “the universal desire for peace, in particular for martyred Ukraine, which is suffering so much.”.
The Pope has been a tireless advocate of peace throughout the Russian invasion, begun in February, which he regularly raises in his speeches.
In an interview published at the end of November by the US Jesuit magazine America, he denounced the “cruelty” that Ukraine has been facing as a result of the Russian offensive.