Pope calls for lowering of tensions in eastern Ukraine

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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis, delivering his Sunday address to a live audience for the first time in more than a month, called for a lowering of tensions in eastern Ukraine and expressed anxiety over a military buildup.

“Please! I strongly hope that an increase in tension can be avoided. On the contrary, there is a need for gestures that can promote reciprocal trust and foster reconciliation and peace, both so necessary and so desired,” the pope said.

Tensions between Moscow and Kyiv have been rising amid a build-up of Russian troops along the border and clashes in eastern Ukraine between the army and pro-Russian separatists.

Francis, speaking to several hundred people in St. Peter’s Square from a window in the Apostolic Palace, said he was following the increased military activity with anxiety and decried violations of a ceasefire agreement in the last few months.

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