The pontiff condemned the massacre of civilians and called for “stopping this massacre.”

Pope Francis issued the harshest condemnation of the invasion of Ukraine during the conflict, saying on Sunday that “unacceptable armed aggression” must be stopped.

Speaking to thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, Pope Francis called the killings of children and unarmed civilians barbaric and stressed that there were no “weighty strategic reasons” for them.

The pontiff called the besieged Mariupol a “martyr city” and again called for the creation of “truly safe humanitarian corridors” allowing residents to evacuate.

“I ask you in the name of God: stop this slaughter!”, Pope Francis said, adding that Ukrainian cities risk “turning into cemeteries.”

In condemning the war in Ukraine, the pope has not used the word “Russia” since Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion on February 24. However, his use of expressions such as “armed aggression” and “lack of a compelling strategic reason” seems to have been intended to challenge Moscow’s justifications for the invasion.

Recall that Russia calls its actions a “special operation.” Last Sunday, Francis indirectly rejected this term, saying that the campaign in Ukraine should be considered not just a military operation, but a war that gave rise to “rivers of blood and tears.”