Pope says world faces ‘atomic threat’ as he calls on Zelensky to be open to peace talks

Pope Francis has pleaded with Vladimir Putin to bring the war in Ukraine to an end, as he denounced the “absurd” risk of nuclear escalation in Europe and the potential for “uncontrollable and catastrophic consequences worldwide”.

Speaking on Sunday in the Angelus prayer, it was the first time Francis has called upon Mr Putin and cited his role in the war directly.

At the same time, he urged Volodymyr Zelensky to be open to serious peace negotiations, as he said that he is “saddened by the rivers of blood and tears spilled in these months.”

“My appeal is addressed first and foremost to the president of the Russian Federation, imploring him to stop this spiral of violence and death, also for the sake of his own people,” the Pope said.

“On the other hand, saddened by the immense suffering of the Ukrainian people as a result of the aggression they have suffered, I address an equally confident appeal to the President of Ukraine to be open to serious proposals for peace.”

The pontiff urged all international leaders to do “everything possible” to bring the seven-month war in Europe to an end “without allowing themselves to be drawn into dangerous escalations”.

The Pope began the Angelus prayer by stating that the war in Ukraine has become “so serious, devastating and threatening, as to cause great concern” and said that it is a “terrible and inconceivable wound to humanity, instead of healing, continues to shed even more blood, risking to spread further”.

Stating that certain actions can never be justified, the Pope said: “How much blood must still flow for us to realise that war is never a solution, only destruction?”

The Pope reiterated his calls for an immediate ceasefire.

“It is disturbing that the world is learning the geography of Ukraine through names such as Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol, Izyum, Zaporizhzhia and other areas, which have become places of indescribable suffering and fear. And what about the fact that humanity is once again faced with the atomic threat? It is absurd,” he said.

Francis said that he was abandoning his usual religious theme for his noon remarks on Sunday to focus on the war in Ukraine.

“How the war is going in Ukraine has become so grave, devastating and threatening that it sparks great worry,” Francis said.

The Pope said the world should use all diplomatic means, including those that may not have been used so far, to bring this “terrible tragedy” to an end, as he said that “war in itself is an error and a horror!”

The Catholic Church’s head has previously expressed his grave concerns over the war and given multiple remarks pledging support to the people of Ukraine.

He has spoken with Mr Zelensky twice since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February this year, with his last call to the Ukrainian president made in August.

His first call to Mr Zelensky was made within 48 hours of the invasion.

The Pope recently stressed Ukraine’s right to defend itself from aggression. Logistics complications have frustrated his oft-stated hope to make a pilgrimage to Ukraine to encourage peace efforts.