ROME – Pope Francis on Wednesday condemned the “horrendous cruelties” in war-torn Ukraine.

“Ever more horrendous cruelties [are occurring], even against civilians, women, and helpless children. They are victims whose innocent blood cries out to heaven and implores,” Francis said during his weekly audience at the Vatican.

“May this war cease! May weapons fall silent. Stop sowing death and destruction,” he added.

During the audience, Francis showed a Ukrainian flag which he said he received on Tuesday from Bucha. He said it “came from war, from that martyred city of Bucha.”

The Vatican has offered itself as a mediator in the war between Russia and Ukraine, and Francis over the weekend said he was considering a Ukrainian invitation to go to Kyiv, “but I don’t know if it can be done.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Moscow have been facing vehement criticism from the international community after Ukraine accused Russian forces of committing “genocide” and “war crimes” in Bucha, a town near the capital Kyiv.

Russia has rejected the allegations as a “fake news attack,” arguing that images of dead bodies and footage of slain civilians that have drawn global outrage were staged after Russian forces withdrew from the city. (Anadolu)