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Pope Francis calls Russian invasion of Ukraine 'senseless massacre'

Pope Francis calls Russian invasion of Ukraine 'senseless massacre'
Pope Francis on Sunday escalated his condemnation of Russia in an address to visitors at St. Peter’s Square. He is pictured at the Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital in Rome on Saturday where he met with children injured during the war in Ukraine. Photo courtesy Vatican Media

March 20 (UPI) -- Pope Francis on Sunday escalated his condemnation of Russia while calling the invasion of Ukraine a "senseless massacre" in an address to visitors at St. Peter's Square.

Francis said that "there is a repetition of slaughter and atrocities" by Russian forces every day of the invasion, according to Vatican News, a state-run broadcaster owned by the Holy See.

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"There is no justification for this! I plead with all those involved in the international community to truly commit to ending this abhorrent war," Francis said.

"All this is inhuman! Indeed, it is also sacrilegious because it goes against the sacredness of human life, especially against defenseless human life, which must be respected and protected, not eliminated, and this comes before any strategy! Let us not forget it is inhuman and sacrilegious cruelty!"

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Francis told the crowd that he had visited the Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital in Rome on Saturday where he met with one child who lost an arm and another with a head injury caused by the Russian attack, adding that children are left to "die under the bombs without being able to receive help."

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His comments came after he condemned the Russian invasion last Sunday as he urged for a diplomatic end to the war and the establishment of humanitarian corridors.

"In the name of God, let the cries of those who suffer be heard and let the bombings and attacks cease! Let there be a real and decisive focus on negotiation, and let the humanitarian corridors be effective and safe," Pope Francis said. "In the name of God, I ask you: stop this massacre!"

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Francis also said that Mariupol has "become a city of martyrs" amid the constant shelling by Russian forces that had previously disrupted most humanitarian corridors established to evacuate and help civilians in the country.

Russian forces on Sunday bombed a drama school in the besieged city of Mariupol where about 400 civilians had been sheltering from the fighting, Ukrainian officials said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his overnight address to the nation that the terror caused by Russian forces shelling and bombing Mariupol "will be remembered for centuries to come."

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