Pope Francis makes peace appeal while holding rosary of slain Ukrainian soldier

Pope Francis holds a rosary and New Testament that belonged to a slain 23-year-old Ukrainian soldier as he appeals for peace during his general audience on Wednesday, April 3, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Apr 3, 2024 / 12:30 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis held in his hands a rosary and New Testament that belonged to a slain 23-year-old Ukrainian soldier as he appealed for peace during his general audience on Wednesday.

Speaking in St. Peter’s Square on April 3, the pope revealed that the rosary belonged to a boy named Oleksandre, who was killed in Avdiïvka in eastern Ukraine.

He said that Oleksandre had also carried a small book containing the New Testament and the Psalms with him to the front lines of the war in Ukraine.

“In the book of Psalms, he had underlined Psalm 130, ‘Out of the depths I cry to thee, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice,’” Pope Francis said.

“This 23-year-old boy died in the war in Avdiïvka. He had his life ahead of him,” the pope remarked.

“I would like for all of us to take a moment of silence, thinking about this boy and many others like him who died in this folly of war,” he said. “Let us think of them and let us pray.”

The pope had been given the rosary in March by Sister Lucia Caram, an Argentine Dominican sister who lives in Spain and has traveled to Ukraine on humanitarian missions, during a private papal audience with journalists from the Spanish-language news portal Religión Digital.

“I gave him the rosary that Oleksandre was wearing when he died. It was a rosary blessed by the pope,” Caram wrote in an Instagram post about the meeting on March 13.

“Francis kissed the rosary and was touched. … He encouraged me to continue. He gave me more rosaries to take to Ukraine,” she added.

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The pope held up the rosary at the end of his general audience after having made an emotional appeal for an immediate cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war, deploring the recent killing of seven humanitarian workers from the nonprofit World Central Kitchen in the Gaza Strip.

“Let us work so that this and other wars that continue to bring death and suffering to so many parts of the world may end as soon as possible,” Pope Francis said.

“Let us pray and work tirelessly for weapons to be silenced and for peace to reign once again.”

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