May 20, 2024

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has sharply rejected an appeal by Pope Francis for peace negotiations with Russia.

“The church should be among the people,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address on Sunday.

“And not two and a half thousand kilometres away, somewhere, to mediate virtually between someone who wants to live and someone who wants to destroy you.”

Zelensky said “when Russian evil started this war” on February 24, 2022, “all Ukrainians stood up to defend themselves. Christians, Muslims, Jews – everyone.”

He thanked every Ukrainian cleric who is working with the defence forces. These clergy are on the front line, protecting life and humanity, he said, adding they support soldiers with prayers, conversations and deeds.

“That is what the church is – with the people.”

The pontiff had triggered an outcry with an appeal for peace negotiations with Russia, which has been understood in Ukraine and many of its supporters as a one-sided appeal to Kiev alone – by some even as a call for capitulation.

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