War in Ukraine

Pope cries for Ukraine: The pontiff struggles to speak as he is overcome with emotion

Pope Francis struggled to speak on Thursday as he was overcome with emotion while praying for peace in Ukraine, before a crowd cheered him on to finish.

Appearing near the Spanish Steps in the centre of Rome during an annual Christmas visit to venerate a statue of the Virgin Mary, Francis leaned over and choked up, unable to speak precisely as he arrived at the part of the prayer.

He said: ‘I would have liked to have brought you the thanks of the Ukrainian people -‘

He began to tremble as he mentioned the Ukrainians and he had to stop speaking. As the crowd of thousands of dignitaries, clergy and ordinary Romans realised the pope was overcome with emotion, they broke into applause and urged him on.

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Pope Francis struggled to speak on Thursday as he was overcome with emotion while praying for peace in Ukraine (pictured), before a crowd cheered him on to finish

Pope Francis struggled to speak on Thursday as he was overcome with emotion while praying for peace in Ukraine (pictured), before a crowd cheered him on to finish

Francis was appearing near the Spanish Steps in the centre of Rome during an annual Christmas visit to venerate a statue of the Virgin Mary. Pictured: The pope looks up at the sky and prays during his visit on Thursday, in which he said a prayer for Ukraine

Francis was appearing near the Spanish Steps in the centre of Rome during an annual Christmas visit to venerate a statue of the Virgin Mary. Pictured: The pope looks up at the sky and prays during his visit on Thursday, in which he said a prayer for Ukraine

After a long pause of 30 seconds, Francis continued the prayer, picking up from where he left off: ‘- the Ukrainian people for the peace we have so long asked the Lord.’ When he resumed the prayer, his voice was cracking.

‘Instead I must present you with the pleas of children, elderly, mothers and fathers and the young people of that martyred land, that is suffering so much,’ he added.

The moment came during the pope’s annual visit to the Spanish Steps, which falls on the December 8 feast day dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus. The day is a national holiday in Italy, and the pope was joined by Rome Mayor Roberto Gualtieri.

The event marks the unofficial start of the Christmas season in Italy.

After reading the prayer on Thursday at the statue near the Spanish Steps, the pope greeted people in the crowd, including journalists.

When one of journalists mentioned to Francis that she had seem him overcome with emotion, he responded: ‘Yes. It (the war in Ukraine) is an enormous suffering, enormous. A defeat for humanity.’

Francis (pictured Thursday) began to tremble as he mentioned the Ukrainians and he had to stop for about 30 seconds. When he resumed the prayer, his voice was cracking

Francis (pictured Thursday) began to tremble as he mentioned the Ukrainians and he had to stop for about 30 seconds. When he resumed the prayer, his voice was cracking

Pope Francis gets emotional after he recited a prayer on behalf of the Ukrainian people, during a traditional visit on December 8 to the statue dedicated to the Immaculate Conception

Pope Francis gets emotional after he recited a prayer on behalf of the Ukrainian people, during a traditional visit on December 8 to the statue dedicated to the Immaculate Conception

As the crowd of thousands of dignitaries, clergy and ordinary Romans realised the pope was overcome with emotion, they broke into applause and urged him on. Pictured: Francis looks up to the sky as he prays in Rome on Thursday

As the crowd of thousands of dignitaries, clergy and ordinary Romans realised the pope was overcome with emotion, they broke into applause and urged him on. Pictured: Francis looks up to the sky as he prays in Rome on Thursday

Since Russia invaded its neighbour in February, Francis has mentioned Ukraine in nearly all his public appearances and grown increasingly critical of Moscow.

On Wednesday, he compared the war in Ukraine to a Nazi operation that killed some two million people, mostly Jews, in the first years of World War Two. 

And in September, Francis said Ukraine was being ‘martyred’ and slammed Russian president Vladimir Putin’s ‘monstrosity’ in the war.

That same month, the pope revealed he had been involved in efforts to release 300 Ukrainian prisoners of war held by Russia.

Speaking at the time, he said he received ‘Ukrainian emissaries’ at the Vatican, including a military chief who brought with him a list ‘of more than 300 prisoners’.

He made the remarks on September 15, a week before Russia and Ukraine carried out an unexpected prisoner swap involving almost 300 people – the largest since Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

The pope said:’They asked me to do something so that an exchange could be made. I immediately called the Russian ambassador to see if something could be done, if an exchange of prisoners could be expedited.’

Russia was last week suspected of retaliating against the pope’s comments.

Francis said: 'I would have liked to have brought you the thanks of the Ukrainian people -' before pausing for 30 seconds to collect himself. He continued: '- the Ukrainian people for the peace we have so long asked the Lord

Francis said: ‘I would have liked to have brought you the thanks of the Ukrainian people -‘ before pausing for 30 seconds to collect himself. He continued: ‘- the Ukrainian people for the peace we have so long asked the Lord

Since Russia invaded its neighbour in February, Francis has mentioned Ukraine in nearly all his public appearances and grown increasingly critical of Moscow. Pictured: Ukrainian soldiers run to help people in an apartment house in fire after the Russian shelling in Bakhmut, Donetsk region on Wednesday, December 7

Since Russia invaded its neighbour in February, Francis has mentioned Ukraine in nearly all his public appearances and grown increasingly critical of Moscow. Pictured: Ukrainian soldiers run to help people in an apartment house in fire after the Russian shelling in Bakhmut, Donetsk region on Wednesday, December 7

The official Vatican website was taken offline on November 30 following an apparent hacking attack, the Holy See said.

‘Technical investigations are ongoing due to abnormal attempts to access the site,’ Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said, without giving any further information.

The suspected hack came a day after Moscow criticised Pope Francis’s condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Russia lodged a formal protest with the Vatican over Francis’ condemnation, in which the pontiff blamed most of the cruelty on Chechens and other minorities in an apparent effort to spare ethnic Russian troops from criticism.

Francis defended his usual reluctance to call out President Vladimir Putin by name, saying it was clear Ukraine is the ‘martyred’ victim in the war. 

But he also said that, while it was the Russian state that invaded Ukraine, ‘Generally, the cruellest are perhaps those who are of Russia but are not of the Russian tradition, such as the Chechens, the Buryats and so on.’ 

Since the war began in February, thousands of Ukrainian civilians have been killed by Russian soldiers. Moscow has been accused of carrying out war crimes against the Ukrainian people, with Kyiv discovering several mass graves.


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