Pope says he keeps slain Ukrainian soldier’s Bible on his desk

In the middle of his Wednesday catechesis – which this week was devoted to the Psalms – Pope Francis laid aside his prepared remarks and spoke off-the-cuff.

“I have on my desk a Ukrainian edition of this New Testament and Psalms”, he said, “from a soldier who died in the war. It was sent to me. He prayed at the front with this book.”

The Pope was referring to 23 year-old Ukrainian soldier Oleksandr, whose rosary and Bible he received several months ago.

At the General Audience of April 3rd of this year, the Pope had held up the items and showed them to those gathered in St Peter’s Square.

“I am holding in my hands a rosary and a copy of the New Testament left behind by a soldier who died in the war,” he said. “This young man was named Oleksandr — Alexander — and he was 23 years old.”

“Alexander read the New Testament and the Psalms,” the Pope added, “and in the Book of Psalms, he had underlined Psalm 130: ‘Out of the depths I cry to thee, O Lord! Lord, hear my voice!’.”

“This 23-year-old young man died in Avdiïvka,” said the Pope. “He had his life ahead of him. And this is his rosary and his New Testament, which he read and [with which he] prayed.”

“I would like all of us to take a moment of silence, to think about this young man and many others like him who have died in this madness of war. War always destroys!”

Today – in a demonstration of how much the gift had touched him– the Pope revealed that he has placed Oleksandr’s Bible on his desk.

And then, at the end of the audience, the Pope asked – as he does every single week – for prayers for Ukraine, and other countries suffering from war.

“Let us continue to pray for peace,” he urged. “War is always a defeat, from the beginning. Let us pray for the tormented Ukraine, for the Holy Land, Sudan, Myanmar and wherever people suffer from war. Let us pray daily for peace.”

By Joseph Tulloch, for Vatican News

Pic: © VATICAN MEDIA Divisione Foto