Pope Francis Issues Nuclear Disaster Warning

Last Wednesday, Pope Francis called for “concrete steps” to bring the war in Ukraine to an end and to avert the risk of disaster at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. 

The United Nation’s nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, announced last Tuesday that it was in talks to gain access to visit the Russian-occupied nuclear plant. 

The Zaporizhzhia plant is the largest nuclear plant of its kind in Europe. Russian forces took over the plant not long after the February 24 invasion. Since then, both Russia and Ukraine have repeatedly accused each other of firing on the facility. Meanwhile, the UN has called for the area to be demilitarized.  

In his weekly general audience last Wednesday, the pope expressed his hope that “concrete steps” could be taken to end the conflict “and to avert the risk of a nuclear disaster at Zaporizhzhia.”  

The pope was speaking on the day Ukraine marked its 1991 independence from the Soviet Union. 

In addition to condemning all war as “madness,” the pope also called out the assassination of Darya Dugina, the daughter of a Russian ultra-nationalist who was killed in a Moscow car bombing the previous weekend, saying, “Innocents pay for war.”  

Moscow has accused Ukrainian agents of being behind Dugin’s murder. Kyiv has denied the accusation.  

The pope also called the arms merchants who profit off of war “delinquents who kill humanity.” 

Last month, the pope said in a Reuters interview that he wanted to visit both Kyiv and Moscow to promote peace.  

The pope will be in the Kazakh capital of Nur-Sultan in mid-September to attend a congress of religious leaders where he hopes to meet with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, who supports Russia’s war in Ukraine. 

Ukraine, meanwhile, has been petitioning Pope Francis to visit Kyiv before the September congress, arguing that meeting with Kirill first could send the wrong message to the Ukrainian people.