Pope Francis wept on Thursday when he spoke of the pain and suffering of Ukrainians in a traditional prayer held in central Rome.
As he spoke of the Ukrainians, his voice started to shake and he was forced to stop speaking for 30 seconds. His voice cracked when he resumed his prayer.
When they realized he couldn’t talk, the crowd applauded, along with Rome Mayor Roberto Gualtieri, who stood right beside him.
Francis fell during the traditional prayer to the Madonna, at the feet of a statue commemorating the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in Italy.
He said, “Imaculate Virgin. Today I would like to give you the thanks of Ukrainian people (for peaceful coexistence),” before becoming overwhelmed and having to stop.
He continued, “Instead, I must once again bring you the pleas for children, the elderly, fathers, and mothers, as well as the young people in that land which has been martyred, which is sorely suffering so much.”
Francis, who has become increasingly critical of Moscow since Russia invaded Ukraine’s neighbouring country in February 2017, has almost always mentioned Ukraine during his public appearances.
He compared Wednesday’s war in Ukraine with a Nazi operation, which killed approximately two million civilians, mostly Jews in the early years of World War Two.
The pope received journalists and others in the crowd after he had read the prayer at the Spanish Steps statue.
Francis responded to a journalist who mentioned that she’d seen him overcome by emotion.
“Yes. The war in Ukraine is a terrible, horrible thing. It is a defeat for humanity.