An aerial view shows a residential building destroyed by shelling, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, in the settlement of Borodyanka in the country’s Kyiv region March 3, 2022. (CNS photo/Maksim Levin, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Mayor Vitali Klitschko of Kyiv, Ukraine’s besieged capital, has invited Pope Francis and other religious leaders to come to the city and witness for peace.

“The Holy Father has received the letter from the mayor of the Ukrainian capital and is close to the suffering of the city, its people, those who had to flee from it and those who are called to administer it,” said Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office.

“He prays to the Lord that they will be protected from violence,” Bruni said March 15, adding that the pope repeats his call for an end to “the unacceptable armed aggression before it reduces cities to cemeteries.”

In a letter to the pope dated March 8, Klitschko said, “We believe that the world religious leaders’ presence in person in Kyiv is key for saving lives and paving the path to peace in our city, country and beyond.”

The mayor offered “help on whatever might be needed” to get the pope to Kyiv, and said, “if a journey to Kyiv is not possible, we kindly ask for a joint video conference to be recorded or broadcast live,” including with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“We appeal to you, as a spiritual leader, to show your compassion, to stand with the Ukrainian people by jointly spreading the call for peace,” the letter said.

Klitschko wrote to the pope three days after appealing in a video on Twitter for religious leaders to come to the beleaguered city.