Once-Captured Ukrainian Mayor, Lawmakers Attend Pope’s Easter Vigil At Vatican

Pope Francis shakes hands with mayor of Ukrainian city of Melitopol Ivan Fedorov next to members of Ukrainian parliament Maria Mezentseva, Olena Khomenko and Rustem Umerov, as they attend the Easter Vigil in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, April 16, 2022. Vatican Media/­Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.

The mayor of the Ukrainian city of Melitopol — currently occupied by invading Russian forces — and three Ukrainian lawmakers attended an Easter Vigil homily at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.

Pope Francis directly addressed Melitopol Mayor Ivan Federov and lawmakers Maria Mezentseva, Olena Khomenko, and Rusem Umerov in his homily on the night of April 16-17.

“In this darkness of war, in the cruelty, we are all praying for you and with you this night. We are praying for all the suffering. We can only give you our company, our prayer,’’ Francis said.

He added that “the biggest thing you can receive: Christ is risen,” speaking the last three words in Ukrainian.

The pontiff did not refer directly to Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, but he has called for an Easter truce in order to reach a negotiated peace.

Francis invoked “gestures of peace in these days marked by the horror of war” and said that while “many writers have evoked the beauty of starlit nights, the nights of war, however, are riven by streams of light that portend death.”

Fedorov was abducted on March 11 by Russians troops, triggering protests there and calls by Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelenskiy for his immediate release. He was released five days later.

Fedorov and the Ukrainian lawmakers have been visiting European capitals seeking more aid for Ukraine as it struggles against the Russian invasion of their country.

The pope is due to say Mass in St. Peter’s Square on Easter Sunday, April 17, and then deliver his twice-a-year Urbi Et Orbi (To The City And The World) message and blessing.