Eleventh Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly
17th Plenary Meeting
New York, 22 February 2023
As this Emergency Special Session observes the one-year anniversary of the escalation of the war in Ukraine, let us never forget that “Peace is possible!”
In this regard, all parties must remain open to dialogue lest they risk closing “off the only reasonable door to peace.” Subscribing to the illusion that this war has a military solution through attrition will lead to “no peace other than the dreadful peace of death.” With this in mind, Pope Francis has made the following heartfelt appeal, “May weapons be silenced and may conditions be sought for the start of negotiations that will lead to solutions that are not imposed by force, but consensual, just and stable.”
The inhumanity of modern warfare is on display in Ukraine for all to see, as each life lost leaves behind a grieving family, with parents forced to bury their sons and daughters, and children left orphaned, a status that “has no nationality.”Particularly reprehensible is the reliance on tactics that treat soldiers as expendable objects, rather than as human beings with inviolable dignity.
Throughout the war, Pope Francis has reaffirmed his closeness to the innocent in Ukraine, who suffer “the martyrdom of aggression.” In this regard, the Holy See duly recalls the obligation of all States, according to international humanitarian law, to refrain from evacuating children to foreign territory without a compelling medical reason and the written consent of those responsible for their care or from changing their “personal status.” In addition, the Holy See insists on the importance of family reunification, including of children with their extended family, and calls on all States to ensure the best interests of the child at all times. Children must never become the pawns of war or used for political propaganda.
In light of attacks against critical infrastructure, the Holy See reiterates that, “any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities of extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.”
In the face of civilian suffering, my delegation renews its gratitude to those Governments, organizations and individuals that have embodied the ethic of solidarity in providing shelter, food and medical care to those displaced within Ukraine and in neighboring countries. For its part, the Holy See has provided aid to those in need in Ukraine through the Dicastery for the Service of Charity, while the wider Catholic Church—through religious orders, lay communities and faith-based organizations on the ground—has delivered assistance to millions of those in need, including refugees of war.
The repercussions of the present war extend far beyond Ukraine, having spurred energy, food and financial crises that particularly affect “those in the poorest countries”. In this regard, the Holy See welcomes the implementation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative and commends the continued work of the Secretary-General and Türkiye in ensuring the success and full implementation of the accord, which demonstrates the viability of dialogue to lessen the suffering caused by war.
Absurdly, the present war portends the risk of nuclear disaster, either through deliberate escalation or accident caused by inadvertent damage to nuclear facilities. With regard to the former, the Holy See cannot help but condemn any rhetoric threatening the use of nuclear weapons as morally repugnant, given that their indiscriminate effects violate the laws of war and would have devastating consequences for all humanity. In this regard, the Holy See supports the efforts of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to create a protection zone for the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.
The present conflict makes plain the significant dysfunction present in this organization’s security architecture and that of the entire multilateral system. Addressing such dysfunction demands comprehensive reform that upholds the principle of sovereign equality of all States. Institutional reforms alone, however, cannot save us from the scourge of war, which originates “from within the human heart corrupted by sin.” It is time to refrain from any rhetoric or actions seeking to escalate this conflict, and engage in concrete dialogue and diplomacy in a sincere attempt to put an end to this heinous war. No effort must be spared to end the suffering of the Ukrainian people and all those somehow affected by this atrocious conflict.
I thank you, Mr. President.
 Pope Francis, Angelus, 13 November 2022.
 Pope Francis, Press Conference on the Return Flight to Rome from Kazakhstan, 15 September 2022.
 Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, 7 December 1965, 82.
 Pope Francis, Angelus, 2 October 2022.
 Pope Francis, General Audience, 24 August 2022.
 Pope Francis, General Audience, 23 November 2022.
 Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol 1), 8 June 1977, Article 78.
 Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949, Article 50.
 Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, 7 December 1965, 80.
 Pope Francis, Message to Participants in the Eight “Rome Med Dialogues” Conference, 1 December 2022.
 Cf. Pope Francis, Address to the Participants in the General Chapters of the Basilian Order of Saint Josaphat, the Order of the Mother of God and the Congregation of the Mission, 7 August 2022.
 Cf. Pope Francis, General Audience, 24 August 2022.
 Pope Francis, Address to Members of the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See, 9 January 2023.
 Pope Francis, Message for the 56th World Day of Peace, 1 January 2023.