Pope Francis blesses audience

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis is linking the suffering of Ukrainians now to the 1930s “genocide" by starvation that the country experienced under Josef Stalin.

Francis’ linking of the two marked a sharp escalation in papal rhetoric against Russia.

As of this year, only 16 countries have officially recognized the famine — known as the Holodomor — as genocide, and none in Western Europe, according to the Holomodor Museum in Kyiv.

In comments at the end of his weekly Wednesday general audience, Francis renewed calls for prayers for the “terrible suffering of the dear and martyred Ukrainian people.”

He recalled that Saturday marks the 90th anniversary of the start of the famine, which Ukraine commemorates every fourth Saturday of November with a Day of Memory.

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