Ukraine: Pope calls Zelenskyy to express 'profound pain'

Zelenskyy thanked pontiff for his prayers for peace and spiritual support.

Pope Francis spoke by phone to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday afternoon, expressing his "most profound pain for the tragic events" unfolding in the country, the Ukrainian embassy to the Vatican said.

The phone call, confirmed by the Vatican press office, followed the pope's unexpected visit to the Russian embassy to the Holy See on Friday, to express his concern over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

The Vatican did not provide details of the meeting, which lasted for just over half an hour, in what Reuters described as an "unprecedented departure from diplomatic protocol."During his general audience on Wednesday, the day before Russia invaded Ukraine, the pope urged leaders to "seriously examine their consciences before God", and said he was praying for all parties involved to "refrain from any action that will cause even more suffering" and "discredit international law".

On Thursday the Vatican's secretary of state Cardinal Pietro Parolin, called for a "glimmer of conscience on the part of those who hold in their hands the fortunes of the world" to "spare the world from the folly and horrors of war".

In recent days the pope has used his Pontifex Twitter account to write messages in Ukrainian and English to denounce war and to appeal for peace, accompanied by the #PrayTogether #Ukraine hashtags.“Every war leaves our world worse than it was before" - the pope tweeted - "War is a failure of politics and of humanity, a shameful capitulation, a stinging defeat before the forces of evil”.

Francis has called for a day of fasting for peace on 2 March, Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent in the Christian calendar.