Pope Francis has called for the ceasefire agreement to be honoured in Ukraine in a meeting with the country’s bishops.
The Pope said the conflict had caused “great suffering to the entire population”.
“As I have assured you personally and conveyed by cardinal-envoys, I am very close to you with my prayers for the dead and for all those struck by violence, with the prayer to the Lord that He might speedily grant peace,” the Pope said.
He was speaking to the bishops of Ukraine during their ad limina visit to Rome. The bishops were led by Major-Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, and Archbishop Mieczysław Mokrzycki of Lviv of the Latin Church.
The Pope appeared to warn the bishops against being drawn too deeply into politics.
He said that recent events “deal with questions that have a partially political base, and to which you are not called to give a direct response; but they are also socio-cultural realities and human tragedies that await your direct and positive contribution”.
The Pope continued: “On the national level, you are full citizens of your country, and so you have the right to express, even in the common way, your thought on its destiny — not in the sense of promoting a concrete political action, but in the indication and re-affirmation of the values that constitute the coagulating element of Ukrainian society, persevering in the tireless pursuit of harmony and of the common good, even in the face of grave and complex difficulties.”
Francis expressed dismay at reports of conflict between the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the Latin Catholic Church. He said it was “painful for me personally to hear that there are misunderstandings and injuries” between the two communities.
The Pope said: “You are a single body and, as was said to you in the past by St John Paul II, and by Benedict XVI, I in my turn urge you to find among yourselves a manner of welcoming one another and of sustaining one another generously in your apostolic labours.”
Francis also urged the bishops to be attentive to their flock, especially the poor. “They are your wealth,” he said.