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This morning, before the General Audience, Pope Francis received the bishops of the Synod of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church in the study of the Paul VI Hall.

During the meeting, which lasted nearly two hours, after the greeting of His Beatitude Svjatoslav Ševčuk, who recalled the painful situation in which his country finds itself, with an increasing number of dead, wounded and tortured people, and who thanked the Pope for the affection shown in so many ways and on so many occasions, several participants spoke, each one recounting the suffering the Ukrainian people are experiencing in different places and in different ways.

Pope Francis listened attentively to the words addressed to him and, with some brief interventions, expressed his feelings of closeness and participation in the tragedy that the Ukrainians are experiencing, with a “dimension of martyrdom” that is not spoken about enough, subjected to cruelty and criminality. He expressed his sorrow for the sense of helplessness felt in the face of war, “a thing of the devil who wants to destroy”, with a special thought for the Ukrainian children he met during the hearings. “They look at you and have forgotten how to smile”, he said, adding “this is one of the fruits of war, to take away the smile from children”.

In response to the cruelty of the war, there was a need for more prayer, for conversion and for an end to the conflict, and following a request received during the meeting, the Pope expressed his desire that during the month of October, the Rosary be dedicated to peace and reconciliation in Ukraine.

The Pope then spoke about the meeting he had in recent days with some young Russian people, referring to the answer he gave to the journalists on the plane returning from Mongolia.

He went on to recall the example of Jesus during the Passion, who did not remain a victim of insults, torture and crucifixion, but testified to the courage to speak the truth, to be close to the people so that they would not be discouraged. “This is not easy”, he said. “This is holiness, but the people want us to be saints and teachers of this way that Jesus taught us”.

Finally, before addressing the Blessed Mother in prayer, the Pope confided that he remembers the Ukrainians every day in his prayer before the icon of the Virgin, which the Archbishop Major gave him before he left Buenos Aires.