A handout picture shows Pope Francis lead the Angelus prayer from the window of his office in Vatican City on September 18. Photo by Vatican Media/EPA-EFE
Oct. 2 (UPI) -- Pope Francis on Sunday called on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to be open to "serious proposals for peace" as he condemned Russia's war in Ukraine.
Francis, speaking ahead of his recitation of the Angelus prayer in St. Peter's Square, also once again called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop his war against Ukraine, according to a transcript of the speech from the Vatican's media agency.
"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," Francis said.
"On the other hand, saddened at 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."
His comments came as Putin on Sunday submitted the illegal annexation of four Ukrainian provinces into Russia to the state Duma for ratification.
"The course of the war in Ukraine has become so serious, devastating and threatening, as to cause great concern," Francis said Sunday.
"Indeed, this terrible and inconceivable wound to humanity, instead of healing, continues to shed even more blood, risking to spread further."
Francis added that it is "disturbing" that people around the world have become familiar with the geography of Ukraine as the names of Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol, Izium and Zaporizhzhia are plastered in headlines.
"I am saddened by the rivers of blood and tears spilled in these months. I am saddened by the thousands of victims, especially children, and the destruction which has left many people and families homeless and threaten vast territories with cold and hunger," Francis said.
"What is to happen next? How much blood must still flow for us to realize that war is never a solution, only destruction?"
Zelensky on Sunday praised the support of neighboring countries after Ukraine submitted an application to join NATO.
The Ukrainian president announced Friday that the country has applied for membership in the NATO alliance -- a move that comes with steep hurdles, including the unanimous approval of all 30 members.