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Pope Francis calls Russia to renew Ukraine grain deal

Pope Francis addresses the crowd in St. Peter’s Square in his Sunday Angelus on July 16, 2023. / Credit: Vatican Media

Vatican City, Jul 30, 2023 / 06:10 am (CNA).

Pope Francis made a direct call to Russia on Sunday to renew the deal that allowed Ukraine to export grain to countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

“I appeal to my brothers, the authorities of the Russian Federation, that the Black Sea Initiative be restored and grain be transported safely,” the pope said July 30 at the end of his weekly Angelus prayer and address.

The Kremlin announced July 17 that the wartime grain deal would be suspended until “the part of the Black Sea deal related to Russia is implemented.” Russia has also bombed Ukraine’s Black Sea ports since quitting the agreement.

The move by Russia has sparked fears for even higher food prices and increased poverty in countries already suffering from hunger.

Pope Francis also repeated Sunday his regular request for prayers for Ukraine.

“Let us not cease to pray for the tormented Ukraine, where war destroys everything, even grain,” he said. “This is a grave offense against God, for grain is his gift to feed humanity; and the cry of millions of starving brothers and sisters rises to Heaven.”

In response to leaders’ appeals to reinstate the grain deal, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said at an Africa summit he hosted July 27-28 in St. Petersburg that Russia could deliver grain for free to six African countries: Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, Central African Republic and Eritrea — all allies of Russia apart from Somalia.

Vatican authorities said an estimated 11,000 people were in St. Peter’s Square for Pope Francis’ Angelus prayer and address July 30.

The pope’s reflection focused on Jesus’ parable of the merchant who finds “a pearl of great price,” as recounted in the day’s Gospel reading.

After praying in Latin the Angelus, a traditional prayer honoring Mary, Francis noted the upcoming third anniversary of the Aug. 4, 2020 explosion at the port of Beirut, Lebanon.

Pope Francis also spoke out against human trafficking, noting the United Nation’s July 30 commemoration of the World Day Against Human Trafficking.

“Trafficking is a terrible reality, affecting too many people: children, women, workers,” he said. “So many exploited people, all living in inhumane conditions and suffering indifference and discard by society. There is so much trafficking in the world today. God bless those who work to fight against trafficking.”

The pope leaves Aug. 2 for a five-day visit to Portugal for World Youth Day 2023.

He asked for prayers for his travels.

“So many young people, from all continents, will experience the joy of the encounter with God and with their brothers and sisters, guided by the Virgin Mary, who after the annunciation ‘got up and went in haste,’” he said. “To her, bright star of the Christian journey, so venerated in Portugal, I entrust the pilgrims of World Youth Day and all the young people of the world.”

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