Pope Francis calls for fundraising campaign to help victims of Ukraine violence

File photo: Refugees from eastern Ukraine arrive at a train station in the southern city of Stavropol © Eduard Korniyenko
The Pope has announced a special fundraising campaign for Ukrainians in all European Catholic churches, saying he is thinking of those in Ukraine who live in lands “that are turned upside-down by hostilities that have caused thousands of deaths.”

Pope Francis said that, as well as keeping the Ukrainian people in his thoughts and prayers, he has “decided to mobilize humanitarian help for them."

"To this end, there will be special collections on Sunday April 24 in all European Catholic churches. I urge the faithful to support this papal initiative with generous contributions," the pontiff said, addressing thousands during the Regina Caeli prayer in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican.

This gesture of charity, beyond alleviating material suffering, expresses my personal closeness and the solidarity of the entire Church,” the 79-year-old pontiff said.

Pope Francis © Tony Gentile

In his speech, Francis highlighted the tragedy of “all those who thirst for reconciliation and peace.

“I am thinking of the ordeal of those who suffer the consequences of the violence in Ukraine: of those who continue to live in lands that are turned upside-down by hostilities that have caused thousands of deaths, and of those – over a million – who have been forced to leave due to the grave situation that persists.

Pope Francis has repeatedly called to end the military conflict in eastern Ukraine. In July 2014, believers in Saint Peter’s Square were touched by his emotional appeal to cease the violence in Ukraine and the Middle East. He said the children who live in conflict zones are suffering most and are deprived of hope and a future.

"Please stop! I ask you with all my heart, it's time to stop. Stop, please!" his voice was breaking as Pope Francis spoke.

When the conflict escalated once again in February 2015, he said when he hears the words ‘victory’ or ‘defeat’ he feels great pain, great sadness in his heart.

They are not the right words. The only right word is peace. This is the only right word,” he explained.

READ MORE: Pope Francis calls to end 'barbarous violence' & bloodshed in global hotspots 

In April 2015, he called to end “absurd” violence, bloodshed and persecution in hotspots around the world, including in Ukraine. Pope Francis asked the Lord to “bring light to beloved Ukraine,” especially to those who “have endured the violence of the conflict.”