ROME — Pope Francis has written a letter to the people of Ukraine marking nine months since the outbreak of war on their soil.
“On your land, for nine months, the absurd madness of war has been unleashed,” the pontiff writes in the letter published Friday on the Vatican website. “In your skies the sinister roar of explosions and the eerie sound of sirens echo unabated.
“Your cities are pounded by bombs while showers of missiles cause death, destruction and pain, hunger, thirst and cold,” he continued. “In your streets many have had to flee, leaving homes and loved ones. Every day beside your great rivers flow rivers of blood and tears.”
In his missive, the pope assures the Ukrainian people of his closeness and prayers, joining his tears to theirs and declaring that “your pain is my pain.”
“The cross that tortured the Lord lives again in the tortures found on the corpses,” he writes, “in the mass graves discovered in various cities, in these and in many other bloody images that have entered our souls, which raise a cry: Why? How can people treat other people like that?
“The pain of Ukrainian mothers is incalculable,” Francis asserts, referencing the violent deaths of hundreds of Ukrainian children.
“Now they are in God’s bosom, seeing your troubles and praying for an end. But how can we fail to feel anguish for them and for those who, young and old, have been deported?” he asks.
The pope goes on to offer words of comfort to young people, who, “in order to courageously defend your homeland, had to take up arms instead of the dreams you had cultivated for the future.”
He mentions wives who have lost their husbands, adults who strive to protect their loved ones, and elderly people, “who instead of spending a peaceful sunset have been thrown into the dark night of war.”
For the second time, Francis ties the sufferings of the Ukrainian people to the ninetieth anniversary of “the terrible genocide of the Holodomor,” the starvation campaign orchestrated by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin that resulted in the death of millions of Ukrainians in the early 1930s.
“Despite the immense tragedy they are suffering, the Ukrainian people have never been discouraged or abandoned to self-pity,” the pope continues. “The world has recognized a bold and strong people, a people who suffer and pray, weep and struggle, resist and hope: a noble and martyred people.”
In closing, the pope invites the Ukrainian people to unite their sufferings to those of the Holy Family.
“I would like to return with you to Bethlehem, to the trial that the Holy Family had to face on that night, which seemed only cold and dark,” he writes. “Instead, the light came: not from men, but from God; not from earth, but from Heaven.”