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ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - Concerned for victims of war-torn Ukraine, Pope Francis is planning a special collection on their behalf.
The Holy Father addressed the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Regina Caeli on Divine Mercy Sunday, a day the pontiff dubbed "the heart of the Holy Year of Mercy."
Pope Francis told the crowd, "I think, in particular here in Europe, of the plight of those who suffer the consequences of violence in Ukraine ... more than a million people have been forced to leave their homes due to the severity of the persistent situation ... the majority of whom are elderly and children."
The Roman Pontiff, expressing his desire "to promote humanitarian support in their favor," announced: "To this end, a special collection will take place in all of the Catholic Churches in Europe April 24."
In addition to alleviating material suffering from the war, the Holy Father said the act expresses his closeness and solidarity with the Ukrainian people and the entire Greek Catholic Church.
"I fervently hope that this will, without further delay, help to promote peace and respect of rights in that land which is so tried," the Pope added.
Fighting between Ukraine forces and Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine has recently intensified. More than 9,000 people have been killed since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
Conflicts originated in November 2013 when the Ukraine refused to sign the Association Agreement with the European Union leading to protests and changes in government personnel.
Since Ukraine’s eastern peninsula of Crimea was annexed by Russia in March of 2014, pro-Russian separatist rebels have taken control of eastern portions of Ukraine, around Donetsk and Luhansk. Russia has been supporting the rebels not only with arms but with troops as well, according to both Ukraine and Western nations.
Reflecting on the crisis the Pope continued, "I am thinking of the ordeal of those who suffer the consequences of the violence in Ukraine: of those who continue to live in lands that are turned upside-down by hostilities that have caused thousands of deaths, and of those — over a million — who have been forced to leave due to the grave situation that persists."
The appeal for a special collection to aid victims of war in Ukraine comes nearly one month after Pope Francis met with Ukrainian Greek-Catholic bishops March 7.
To learn more about how the laity are necessary in correcting problems in the Church, please watch ChurchMilitant.com's Exclusive Interview—Bishop René Gracida."
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