Pope Francis on Wednesday likened Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to an intense mass-slaughter campaign, mostly of Jews, carried out by Nazi Germany during World War II.
“May the memory of this horrible event arouse intentions and actions of peace in everyone,” the pope said in a weekly address at the Vatican, after mentioning a memorial service held for Operation Reinhard at the Catholic University of Lublin, in Poland.
Francis called the notorious action an “extermination,” then went off-script, adding: “And history is repeating itself. We see now what is happening in Ukraine.”
The infamous campaign during the Holocaust was carried out by Nazi Germany between March 1942 and November 1943 in the Treblinka, Belzec, and Sobibor death camps, killing some 1.7 million Jews, most of whom were Polish.
President Vladamir Putin and his allies have rationalized Russia’s war on Ukraine as a “special military operation” to “denazify” the country, falsely claiming Kyiv was aligned in some way with Nazism.
Ukraine’s President Volodomyr Zelensky is Jewish.
Throughout the war, Francis has denounced the bloodshed but has lately become increasingly critical of Russia.
Last month, the pope compared Ukrainian’s present suffering to the “terrible genocide” of the Holodomor — a famine in 1932-1933 that killed millions generally blamed on Soviet leader Josef Stalin.
In October, the pope made a rare show of singling out a specific leader, calling Putin to “stop… this spiral of violence and death” during an address at St. Peter’s Square.
“On the other side, pained by the immense suffering of the Ukrainian people following the aggression undergone, I direct a similarly trusting appeal to the president of Ukraine to be open to serious proposals of peace,” Francis added.