Pope notes ‘rising tensions’ in Ukraine, calls for talks

Pope Francis noted the “rising tensions” in Ukraine during his weekly address on Sunday, while also calling for diplomacy as tensions rise between Russia and Ukraine amid reports that Moscow is planning an offensive against Kyiv.

“I am following with concern the rising tensions that threaten to deliver a new blow to peace in Ukraine and put the security of Europe in doubt, with even more vast repercussions,” the pope told pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter’s Square, according to Reuters.

Francis also called for Jan. 26 to be celebrated as an international day of “prayer for peace,” according to Reuters. He asked “all people of good will” to pray on Wednesday for all political enterprises to “be for the service of human fraternity” instead of partisan concerns.

“Those who pursue their interests by damaging others are in contempt of his vocation as a man, because we were all created as brothers,” Francis said, according to Reuters.

The pope’s comments come as the U.S. and Russian officials are engaging in talks amid increased tensions over Ukraine. Moscow has amassed more than 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border, fueling fear among the U.S and its allies that the Kremlin may again invade its neighbor. 

Despite days of discussions, the two sides have not reached any breakthroughs. Russia has presented the U.S. with a number of demands, including an assurance that Ukraine will not join NATO, but Washington has said the requests are non-starters.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday of a “swift,” “severe” and united response from the U.S. and its European allies if a “single additional Russian force” enters Ukraine.