ROME, Italy - Pope Francis was unable to hold back tears as he offered prayers for Ukraine Thursday during a traditional ceremony in central Rome.
He briefly broke down during the afternoon ceremony at the city's Piazza di Spagna to mark the immaculate conception, a public holiday in Italy.
"I would have liked to have brought to you today the thanksgiving of the Ukrainian people...," he said, addressing the statue of the Virgin Mary that stands on a column in the square.
He had to pause for a moment, his body shaking with emotion, at which point the audience broke into applause.
He continued : "...of the Ukrainian people for the peace we have long been asking the Lord for.
"Instead," he said, his voice still shaking with emotion, "I still have to present to you the supplication of the children, of the elderly, of the fathers and mothers, of the young people of that tormented land."
Earlier Thursday, during the Angelus prayers in St Peter's Square, he had spoken of "the universal desire for peace, in particular for martyred Ukraine, which suffers greatly".
Pope Francis has regularly called for peace in Ukraine since the start of Russian's invasion in February.
In an interview published at the end of November in the US Jesuit magazine America, he denounced the cruelty of Russia's troops in Ukraine, drawing a formal protest from Moscow.
© Agence France-Presse