Pope leads crowds in prayer for peace in Ukraine

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Pope Francis arrives for the weekly general audience at the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican, January 12, 2022. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

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VATICAN CITY, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Pope Francis on Sunday led crowds in St. Peter's Square in silent prayer for Ukraine, appealing to the consciences of politicians to seek peace.

"The news from Ukraine is very worrying," said Francis, who has made many appeals for peace in Ukraine and last month led an international day of prayer for peace.

"I entrust every effort for peace to the intercession of the Virgin Mary and the consciences of responsible politicians," he told thousands of people in the square for his weekly blessing and message.

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"Let us pray in silence," he said. The crowd went quiet for about half a minute.

Francis spoke a day after U.S. President Joe Biden told Russia's Vladimir Putin an hour-long call that the West would respond decisively to any invasion of Ukraine, adding such a step would produce widespread suffering and isolate Moscow.

Moscow has repeatedly denied it plans to invade and has dismissed such warnings as "hysteria".

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Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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