Pope Francis on Wednesday likened the aggression against Ukraine today to a genocide perpetrated against the Ukrainian people by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin 90 years ago.
In his weekly general audience, the Pope made yet another appeal for peace in Ukraine, where millions of people are without electricity or heat due to Russian missile strikes on energy infrastructure throughout the country.
“Let us pray for peace in the world, and for an end to all conflicts, with a special thought for the terrible suffering of the dear and martyred people of Ukraine,” the Pontiff said. “And let us think of war-torn Ukraine. This Saturday is the anniversary of the terrible Holodomor genocide, the extermination by hunger in 1932-33 artificially caused by Stalin. Let us pray for the victims of this genocide and let us pray for all Ukrainians, the children, the women and the elderly, the babies who are today suffering the martyrdom of aggression.”
Since 2006, the Holodomor – the Ukrainian word means death by starvation – has been recognized by Ukraine and 15 other countries as a genocide carried out by the Soviet regime. Though some scholars attribute the famine to rapid Soviet industrialization and collectivization of agriculture, others pin the blame on Stalin’s efforts to eliminate a Ukrainian independence movement. An exact death toll is impossible to verify, but historians agree that at least 3 million people died from starvation.
Biden’s statement on famine
The Holodomor is commemorated each year on the fourth Saturday in November. Pope Francis is not the only world leader to liken the 2022 invasion of Ukraine, with Russia’s current destruction of energy infrastructure, to the tragic events of 1932-1933.
US President Joseph Biden issued a statement November 23, saying, “Even as the brave Ukrainian people continue to defend their democracy and freedom from Russia’s brutal aggression, we pause to also honor the victims of past injustices and horrors inflicted on Ukraine.” Stalin, said Biden, “imposed harsh and repressive policies on Ukraine, including creating a deliberate famine in 1932-33 that caused millions of innocent Ukrainian women, men, and children to perish. … We honor the brave Ukrainian people who continue to courageously resist Russia’s assault on their democracy.”