For months, Pope Francis has been increasing calls for a peaceful resolution to the conflict between Russian forces and Ukrainians. Following is a chronology of a year of speeches and actions of the Pontiff on the crisis:
On March 25, 2021, Pope Francis receives Denys Smyhal, Prime Minister of Ukraine, at the Vatican. The “dramatic situation” in the East of the country is mentioned during a meeting with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State of the Holy See, as well as “the hope that the recent violations of the ceasefire will give way to gestures favoring a peaceful resolution of the conflict.”
On April 18, 2021, the pope expressed his concerns on the evolution of the conflict in Ukraine, “where in recent months there have been increasing violations of the ceasefire.” After reciting the Regina Caeli prayer from the window of the Apostolic Palace, he asks for gestures of peace.
On June 29, 2021, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had a phone call with Pope Francis on the occasion of the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. The two heads of state discuss the conflict that has raged in the region since 2013. They first met at the Vatican in February 2020.
On December 12, 2021, from the window of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Pope calls for peace in Ukraine on the occasion of the Sunday Angelus prayer. “Weapons are not the way,” he warns, promising to pray for “dear Ukraine, for all its churches and religious communities, and for all its people.”
On January 10, 2022, in his speech to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See, Pope Francis evokes the Ukrainian situation in one sentence: “Mutual trust and availability for a serene dialogue must animate all the parties concerned in order to find acceptable and lasting solutions in Ukraine and the Southern Caucasus.”
On January 23, the pope launches a solemn appeal for peace in Ukraine and in Europe, during the Angelus. Without pronouncing the name of Russia, he also declared Wednesday, January 26 a “Day of prayer for peace.”
On January 26, the pope invites the faithful “to pray for peace in Ukraine, and to do so often during this day” of prayer. He urges that this land “overcome wounds, fears and divisions.”
On February 9, during the Wednesday general audience, Pope Francis once again calls for prayer for peace in Ukraine. Asking “that tensions and threats of war be overcome through serious dialogue,” he particularly encourages the “Normandy Format summits” — a quadripartite diplomatic configuration set up in 2014, which brings together Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany.
On February 13, Pope Francis stated that “the news coming from Ukraine is very worrying.” On the sidelines of the Angelus, he entrusts to “the intercession of the Virgin Mary and to the conscience of political leaders every effort for peace,” inviting the crowd present in Saint Peter’s Square to pray in silence with him.
On February 20, the pope declared that it was “sad that peoples proud to be Christians see others as enemies and think of fighting each other” during his catechesis delivered during the Angelus. The pontiff, however, makes no explicit reference to the tensions between Ukraine and Russia.
On February 23, Pope Francis expresses his “great pain” for the “deterioration of the situation in Ukraine” during the general audience. He declares a Day of Fasting for Peace on March 2, Ash Wednesday, in order to respond to “the diabolical absurdity of violence.”
On February 24, Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin stated in a video that “there is still time to negotiate” when Russian troops had just launched the offensive attack in Ukraine. Echoing the words of the pope, the Secretary of State of the Holy See deplores the fact that “the tragic scenarios that everyone feared are unfortunately becoming reality.”
On February 25, just over 24 hours after the start of the Russian invasion in Ukraine, Pope Francis went to the Russian Embassy to the Holy See to “express his concern about the war.” It was a strong gesture.
On February 25, the pope posted on his Twitter account an excerpt from his encyclical Fratelli tutti: “Every war leaves our world worse than it was before. War is a failure of politics and of humanity, a shameful capitulation, a stinging defeat before the forces of evil.” The message is also written in Russian and Ukrainian.
On February 25, the Pope affirms that he will do “everything in [his] power” to put an end to the crisis, during a conversation reported by His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.