Pope shows rosary from fallen Ukrainian soldier, condemns “war madness”

Pope shows rosary from fallen Ukrainian soldier, condemns “war madness”

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ROME (AP) — Pope Francis led thousands of people in a moment of silence Wednesday to pray for aid workers killed by an Israeli attack in Gaza and a young Ukrainian soldier named Oleksandre, fallen in “this madness of war.”

Francis again called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and the release of hostages captured by Hamas in Israel on October 7. In a prayer for the families of the seven World Central Kitchen workers who died, he called for humanitarian aid to reach the people of Gaza and for all efforts to be made to prevent the spread of the conflict.

At the end of his general audience, Francis also showed tourists and pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square the rosary and a camouflage-covered New Testament that a 23-year-old Ukrainian soldier named Oleksandre was carrying with him when he died in the eastern town of Avdijevka. .

Apparently the two objects were given to Francis two weeks ago by Sister Lucía Caram, a nun born in Argentina and living in Spain who has led several humanitarian missions to Ukraine to bring aid and evacuate wounded soldiers.

According to an Instagram post on March 13, Caram said Francis had become emotional during a private audience in which he handed him the soldier’s rosary and New Testament. Francisco kissed the rosary, he noted, that he himself had blessed earlier for Caram to take to Ukraine.

“He encouraged me to continue. “She gave me more rosaries to take to Ukraine,” she wrote then.

Showing off the objects Wednesday, Francis turned the pages of the New Testament, underlined by Oleksandre, and said the young man still had a whole life ahead of him when he died.

He asked for a moment of silent prayer “thinking of this young man and so many others like him, who died in this madness of war.”

Francis has previously displayed other relics of the war in Ukraine, including a tattered Ukrainian flag recovered from Bucha, where atrocities by Russian forces occurred early in the conflict.

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