Pope Francis has used his Palm Sunday address to call for "Easter truce" in Ukraine as he lamented "the folly of war."
"Let an Easter truce begin, but not to reload the weapons and resume the fight. No. A truce to achieve peace through real negotiations," the Pontiff said, after celebrating Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square.
It was the first Palm Sunday Mass with the public in attendance since the COVID pandemic, and Poe Francis said that the “folly of war” leads people to commit “senseless acts of cruelty.”
Francis did not explicitly cite Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but the reference was clear and he has repeatedly denounced the war and the suffering brought to innocent people.
During his Palm Sunday homily, the pontiff said: “When we resort to violence ... we lose sight of why we are in the world and even end up committing senseless acts of cruelty. We see this in the folly of war, where Christ is crucified yet another time.”
Francis lamented “the unjust death" of husbands and sons, refugees fleeing bombs, young people deprived of a future, and “soldiers sent to kill their brothers and sisters.”
Last Wednesday the pope had described the killings of civilians in the Ukrainian city of Bucha when it was occupied by the Russian military as a "massacre."
In the square tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists clutched olive branches and braided palms, recreating the moment when Jesus's followers spread palm branches at his feet and called him their "saviour" as he made a triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
Traditionally, the pope leads a Palm Sunday procession through the square before celebrating Mass. Francis has been suffering from a strained ligament in his right knee that has caused him to limp, and he was driven in a black car to the altar, which he then reached leaning on an aide.
Many of the 1.2 billion Catholics across the world celebrated on Sunday.
Palm Sunday opens Holy Week leading up to Easter, which this year falls on 17 April.