The Pope’s solidarity with the Ukrainian people. Franciscan friar, speaker at the General Audience, is Ukrainian.

 “And this Franciscan friar is speaking now, in Polish: but he is Ukrainian”. These were the words that Pope Francis addressed to Brother Marko Gongalo, OFM, in front of the pilgrims present in the Paul VI Hall for the General Audience on 2 March, at the Vatican.

The presence of a Ukrainian speaker was an opportunity for Pope Francis to express his support for the entire Ukrainian people, forced to hide in shelters by the bombings.

“And his parents are at the moment in shelters underground, defending themselves from the bombs, in a place near Kyiv. And he continues to do his duty here, with us. By accompanying him, we accompany all the people suffering from the bombings, his elderly parents, and so many elderly people who are underground to defend themselves. We carry in our hearts the memory of these people”. The Pontiff added and, addressing Brother Marko, “thank you for continuing in your work”.

Brother Marko Gongalo, of the Franciscan Province of St Michael the Archangel in Ukraine, was born in Zhytomyr, Diocese of Kyiv-Zhytomyr. He has been a priest since 2011.