Pope Francis condemns 'inhuman and sacrilegious' war against Ukraine

Pope Francis on Sunday sharpened his rhetoric against Russia's shelling of Ukrainian civilians in its increasingly brutal invasion.

“All this is inhuman!" Francis said, according to a translation published by Vatican News, the Holy See's media portal.

"Indeed, it is also sacrilegious," he continued, "because it goes against the sacredness of human life, especially against defenseless human life, which must be respected and protected, not eliminated, and which comes before any strategy! Let us not forget: It is a cruelty, inhuman and sacrilegious.”

Pope Francis waves from a window.
Pope Francis waves from the window of the apostolic palace during the weekly Angelus prayer. (Tiziana/AFP via Getty Images)

Francis made the remarks during his weekly Sunday address to pilgrims in Vatican City's St. Peter’s Square, where many of those gathered wore gold and blue, the colors of Ukraine's flag.

The pope’s condemnation of Russia's war against Ukraine represents a continuation of his activism on the issue. In the opening days of Russia's assault, Francis visited the Russian embassy to lobby for peace. On Ash Wednesday, earlier this month, Francis used his address to the world's 1.3 billion Catholics to call for public prayer to "appeal to the conscience of all those who have power over war and peace." And on Friday, Francis spoke at a gathering of European Catholic representatives, calling Russia's war against its smaller neighbor a "perverse abuse of power."

As Russia's attack has stalled, facing surprisingly fierce resistance from the Ukrainian military, the Kremlin has increased its bombardment — both artillery and missiles — of civilian areas. Over 3 million Ukrainian refugees have already fled their home country, according to the United Nations.

Pope Francis places his hand on the forehead of a child in a hospital.
Pope Francis blesses a Ukrainian child receiving treatment at Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital. (Vatican Media via Vatican Pool/Getty Images)

Many children, Francis noted Sunday, are suffering. He recalled his Saturday visit to Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital, a Vatican-run hospital in Rome, where he met wounded children who managed to escape the conflict.

“One of them is missing an arm; another was wounded in the head," Francis said.

[See also: Ukrainian children suffer in Russia's war]

Both Russia and Ukraine are predominantly Eastern Orthodox, but Francis's words carry significant weight on the world stage. Some of Moscow’s closest allies like Cuba are heavily Catholic — as are some of the countries maintaining defiant neutrality hoping to not antagonize Russia.

“Unfortunately, the violent aggression against Ukraine has not ceased," Francis said Sunday. "It is a senseless massacre in which atrocities are repeated every day. There is no justification for this. I plead with all actors in the international community to truly engage in bringing this abhorrent war to an end.”