"War always destroys", Pope Prays for People Slain in War

In a poignant moment during his Wednesday General Audience, Pope Francis vividly brought the human cost of the conflict in Ukraine into the heart of Vatican City. Pope shared the story of a young Ukrainian soldier, Oleksandr, who was killed in the ongoing fighting in Avdiivka, touching the consciences of the faithful with a stark reminder of war's devastation.

Holding the late soldier's personal effects, a rosary, and a New Testament, Pope Francis said, "In my hands, I hold the relics of a young man's faith and courage. Oleksandr, just 23 years old, found solace and strength in these items as he faced the realities of war."

Oleksandr's story was made more vivid by Pope's revelation that the young soldier had engaged deeply with his faith, even in his final moments. "He read the New Testament and the Psalms, underlining passages that moved him, including Psalm 129: 'Out of the depths, I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice,'" Pope recounted, highlighting the depth of Oleksandr's faith.

Pope's decision to share Oleksandr's story underscores the Vatican's ongoing concern for the people affected by the war in Ukraine. By invoking the memory of the young soldier, Pope Francis made a powerful call for peace and reconciliation, emphasizing the tragic loss of life and potential caused by the conflict.

"He left behind a life," Pope Francis reflected, pausing to allow the weight of his words to sink in among those gathered in St. Peter's Square. Pope then led the assembly in a moment of silence, urging them to reflect on the countless lives, like Oleksandr's, cut short by what he termed "the madness of war."

Pope's message resonated as a somber reminder of the ongoing human toll of the conflict in Ukraine, which has persisted since Russia's invasion in February 2022. His call to remember the victims of the war and to pray for peace echoed beyond the square, reinforcing his Easter message of hope and urging an end to the violence.

Pope Francis's focus on the personal story of Oleksandr, against the backdrop of the broader conflict, serves as a powerful appeal for the world to take notice and act to bring about peace. Through this intimate recounting, Pope not only honored the memory of a young soldier but also reiterated the Vatican's stance against war and its devastating impact on individuals and families.

As the war in Ukraine continues, Pope Francis's words are a call to the international community to renew efforts for peace and to remember the human faces of those affected by the conflict.

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