Ukraine war latest: 'We will defend our fatherland', Putin tells Moscow crowds; MoD says Russian commanders probably ordered to shoot deserters

Pope Francis has urged religious leaders to help bring the world back from “the brink of a delicate precipice”, telling an interfaith summit that faith leaders must counter the “childlike” whims of the powerful to make war.

Speaking from Bahrain, the pontiff wove his speech around the role of religions in promoting peace, disarmament and social justice.

The pope told the gathering that while the world seemed to be heading apart like two opposing seas, the mere presence of religious leaders together was evidence that they “intend to set sail on the same waters, choosing the route of encounter rather than that of confrontation”.

“It is a striking paradox that, while the majority of the world’s population is united in facing the same difficulties, suffering from grave food, ecological and pandemic crises, as well as an increasingly scandalous global injustice, a few potentates are caught up in a resolute struggle for partisan interests,” he said.

“We appear to be witnessing a dramatic and childlike scenario: in the garden of humanity, instead of cultivating our surroundings, we are playing instead with fire, missiles and bombs, weapons that bring sorrow and death, covering our common home with ashes and hatred,” he said.

He added: “After two terrible world wars, a cold war that for decades kept the world in suspense, catastrophic conflicts taking place in every part of the globe, and in the midst of accusations, threats and condemnations, we continue to find ourselves on the brink of a delicate precipice and we do not want to fall.”

Pope Francis, who supports a total ban on nuclear weapons and has often condemned the global arms trade, said religious leaders cannot support wars – in apparent reference to Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill, who has given enthusiastic backing to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and who the pope has implicitly criticised before.

In his prepared remarks, he also called for an end to Russia’s war “to spare the lives of innocents who have no hand in this violent tragedy”.

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