Russia Ukraine conflict

Pope Francis calls for Easter truce in Ukraine leading to peace talks

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Pope Francis on Sunday called for an Easter truce in Ukraine, leading to negotiations and peace.

“Put the weapons down!” he said at the end of a Palm Sunday service for tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square.

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“Let An Easter truce start. But not to rearm and resume combat but a truce to reach peace through real negotiations,” he said.

Francis spoke at the end of a Palm Sunday service, the first since 2019 in which the public had been allowed back in the square following two years of scaled-back services because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Some in the crowd put small Ukrainian flags at the tip of olive branches and a woman who read one of the prayers near the altar was dressed in the flag’s blue and yellow colors.

The pontiff denounced a war where “defenseless civilians” suffered “heinous massacres and atrocious cruelty.”

“What victory is there in planting a flag on a pile of rubble?” he asked.

Francis on Wednesday had already condemned the targeting of civilians in Ukraine, calling the discovery of bodies in Bucha near Kyiv a “massacre” and embracing a Ukrainian flag from the “martyred town.”

He has also expressed his willingness to contribute to halting the fighting in Ukraine and said he would be ready to travel to Kyiv.

Russia has denied responsibility for the apparent killings of civilians in Bucha, accusing Ukraine of staging them. Moscow has not provided any evidence to back up its claim.

Read more: Zelenskyy says Russia aggression not limited to Ukraine, targets all of Europe

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