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Pope Francis holds a Ukrainian flag that comes from the city of Bucha, (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images)

Pope Francis has condemned the massacre of civilians in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha by the Russian military and renewed his call for an end to the war in Ukraine.

In his general audience at the Vatican on Wednesday, the pope called for an end to the “atrocities” seen in Bucha, where the bodies of civilians were found strewn in the streets.

“Even more horrendous cruelties are taking place, including against civilians, women and children. They are victims whose innocent blood cries out to heaven and implores,” he said.

Russia has repeatedly denied the alleged atrocities, despite mounting evidence to the contrary. Responding to accusations by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday, Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia called the claims against the Russian military “unfounded.”

The Pontiff met with a group of Ukrainian refugee children: The pope proceeded to unfurl a Ukrainian flag, which he said “came from the martyred city of Bucha,” and to kiss it. The action was greeted with wide applause from the audience.

Francis then invited a group of a dozen Ukrainian children, now refugees in Italy, to come up on stage with him.

“These children have had to flee and have come to a strange land. This is one of the fruits of war. Let us not forget them, and let us not forget the Ukrainian people,” he said.

Francis also harshly criticized the failure of international organizations to end the war in Ukraine.

“After the Second World War, attempts were made to lay the foundations for a new era of peace. But, unfortunately, the old story of competition between the great powers continued. And, in the current war in Ukraine, we are witnessing the impotence of International Organizations”.

some background: Although the pope has yet to visit Ukraine amid the Russian invasion, he told reporters April 2 that a trip “is on the table.”

Francis’ comments at his general audience on Wednesday echoed his earlier outpouring of support for Ukrainian refugees and his calls for an end to the war.

On March 19, Francis visited 19 Ukrainian refugee children at the Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital in Rome, Italy. They were receiving treatment for oncological and neurological diseases, among others, as well as for serious injuries caused by explosions, Vatican press director Matteo Bruni said at the time.

“Enough. Enough. Let the guns fall. Negotiate seriously for peace,” Francis said in late March during his weekly Angelus address.

“War cannot be something inevitable. We cannot get used to war,” he added.

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