Pope says Ukraine war ‘a crime against humanity’ in annual speech | Religion News
The head of the Catholic Church criticizes Russia’s war in Ukraine and Iran’s treatment of protesters.
In his annual address to diplomats, Pope Francis denounced Russia’s war in Ukraine, Iran’s treatment of protesters and the damage to government buildings in Brazil by followers of the country’s far-right former president.
Monday’s address to ambassadors accredited to the Vatican is unofficially known as the pope’s “state of the world” address. Typically, it describes the areas of greatest concern to the Holy See.
Here are some key remarks from the head of the Catholic Church:
Ukraine: Every act of war ‘is a crime against God and humanity’ The Pope denounced the “wake of death and destruction” caused by Russia’s nearly year-long offensive in Ukraine, describing the war as “a crime against God and humanity”. He said attacks on civilian infrastructure were causing deaths “not only from gunfire and acts of violence, but also from starvation and freezing cold.” “Any act of war that aims at the indiscriminate destruction of entire cities or large areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and humanity that deserves clear and unequivocal punishment,” Francis said. The pope also warned of a growing nuclear threat, which evoked memories of the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. Francis said the world “once again feels fear and anxiety” and called for a total ban on nuclear weapons.
Iran: ‘The death penalty cannot be applied’ Francis condemned Tehran’s use of the death penalty against demonstrators demanding greater freedoms for women. His remarks were stronger still than the nationwide protests over the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody that have gripped Iran since mid-September. “The death penalty cannot be used for a supposed state justice, as it does not act as a deterrent nor does it give justice to the victims, but only fuels the thirst for revenge,” he said. At least four people have been executed in Iran since demonstrations over Amini’s death began. Francis also called for a global end to the death penalty. He described the death penalty as “always unacceptable as it attacks the inviolability and dignity of the person”. Women’s rights: ‘They are subject to violence and abuse’ In a wider comment on women’s rights globally, the Pope said women in many countries are still treated as “second-class citizens”. “They are subjected to violence and abuse and are denied the opportunity to study, work, employ their talents and have access to health care and even food,” Francis said. The comment on education may refer to the recent move by the Afghan Taliban against women who want to study at university level.
Americas: ‘Increased political and social polarization’ Francis expressed alarm at a “weakening of democracy” in the Americas, citing the attack on government buildings in Brazil on Sunday by supporters of former populist leader Jair Bolsonaro. The spectacle was evidence of the “increased political and social polarization” affecting different regions of America, he said. He said there are some countries where “political crises are fraught with tensions and forms of violence that exacerbate social conflicts.” “I am thinking about these last few hours in Brazil,” the pope said, in a line that was not included in the pre-released text of his speech. Francis also mentioned Peru, which has recently been gripped by deadly nationwide protests, and a “disturbing situation” in Haiti, where gang violence is frequent. “There is a constant need to overcome partisan ways of thinking and work to promote the common good,” he said.