VATICAN CITY (CNS) – A day after canceling an audience because of mild flu symptoms, Pope Francis led the midday recitation of the Angelus prayer as normal and marked the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale attack on Ukraine.

“How many victims, people wounded, destruction, anguish, tears in a period that is becoming terribly long and whose end is not yet in sight,” the pope said Feb. 25, reminding some 20,000 visitors in St. Peter’s Square that Russia launched its major offensive Feb. 24, 2022.

Pope Francis gestures as he leads the recitation of the Angelus prayer with visitors in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Feb. 25, 2024, and prays for peace in Ukraine two years after Russia launched its major offensive on the country. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

“It is a war that not only is devastating that region of Europe but is unleashing a global wave of fear and hatred,” Pope Francis said.

Although his voice was deeper than normal, the pope did not show signs of feeling unwell; he did not cough or seem to experience trouble breathing as he has in the past when the Vatican said, as it did Feb. 24, that he was experiencing “flu-like symptoms.”

Dozens of people in the crowd Feb. 25 held up banners bearing the word “Nonviolence” in Italian.

“While I renew my deepest affection for the tormented Ukrainian people and pray for all, especially for the numerous innocent victims,” the pope said, “I plead for that little bit of humanity to be found that will allow the creation of the conditions for a diplomatic solution in search of a just and lasting peace.”

Pope Francis also asked the crowd to pray “for Palestine, for Israel and for the many peoples torn apart by war, and to concretely help those who suffer! Think of all the suffering; think of the wounded children – innocents.”

Casting his gaze even wider, the pope said he is concerned about the increasing violence in eastern Congo, and he joins the nation’s bishops in asking everyone to pray for peace, “hoping for a cessation of the fighting and the search for a sincere and constructive dialogue.”

Pope Francis also joined the bishops of Nigeria and the leaders of the Dicastery for Evangelization in denouncing “the increasingly frequent kidnappings in Nigeria.”

“I express my closeness in prayer to the Nigerian people, hoping that efforts will be made to ensure that the rapid spread of these incidents be curbed as much as possible,” the pope said.