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Pope calls for peace in Ukraine

Pope calls for peace in Ukraine

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis called for peace in Ukraine on Wednesday as he delivered an impassioned plea to avoid war in Europe, reports AFP.  

"Please, never again war" the pope said during his weekly general audience at the Vatican. "We spoke earlier about the Holocaust -- think how more than five million people were wiped out", the 85-year-old pontiff said.

"During the last war, the people suffered hunger, so much cruelty. They deserve peace," he said, calling on the faithful to "pray for peace in Ukraine, often".

On Sunday, the pope expressed concern over "rising tensions that threaten to inflict a new blow to peace in Ukraine, and call into question the security of the European continent, with even wider repercussions".

He called for Wednesday to be a day of prayer for peace.

Tensions between Moscow and Washington are on a knife's edge over Ukraine, which is currently surrounded by an estimated 100,000 Russian troops. Russian President Vladimir Putin denies any plans to invade.

Also on Wednesday, Italy's defence minister said the country would uphold its NATO commitments, while calling for talks with Moscow to defuse tensions.