RUSSIA — On Sunday, Pope Francis urged Russia to continue a pact that has allowed Ukraine to sell grain to developing nations in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. As he traditionally does every week at the conclusion of the Angelus prayer and address, the Pope made a plea to the authorities of the Russian Federation on July 30. He asked that the Black Sea Initiative be revived and that grain be carried safely.
On July 17, the Kremlin announced the suspension of the wartime food contract until “the part of the Black Sea deal related to Russia is implemented.” Since Ukraine pulled out of the pact, Russia has also bombarded its Black Sea ports. There is concern that this move by Russia may lead to even higher food costs and increasing hardship in nations where hunger is already a serious problem. On Sunday, Pope Francis once again asked for prayers for Ukraine.
War ruins everything, even grain, he remarked, so “let us not cease to pray for the tormented Ukraine.” And the cries of millions of our starving brothers and sisters go up to Heaven, making this a grievous sin against God, for grain is his gift to nourish humanity.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said on July 28 at an Africa summit he hosted in St. Petersburg that Russia could deliver grain for free to six African countries: Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, the Central African Republic, and Eritrea. All but Somalia are allies of Russia. On July 30, Pope Francis led the Angelus prayer and delivered an address to an estimated crowd of 11,000.
Pope Francis reflected on Jesus’ parable of the merchant who finds “a pearl of great price,” which was taken from the Gospel reading for the day. Francis made reference to the forthcoming third anniversary of the August 4, 2020 explosion at the port of Beirut, Lebanon, after performing the traditional Angelus prayer honoring Mary in Latin. Pope Francis has also spoken out against human trafficking, referencing the July 30 World Day Against Human Trafficking observed by the United Nations.
Many people, including children, women, and employees, are victims of trafficking, he said. “There are so many exploited people, all of them living in deplorable conditions and being ignored and abandoned by society. Nowadays, human trafficking occurs on a global scale. May God bless the people who are working to end human trafficking. The Pope will spend five days in Portugal beginning on August 2 for World Youth Day 2023.