Pope Francis called on Wednesday for the lifting of a ban on wheat exports from Ukraine. He said that the grain could not have been used as a weapon of war.
The pope said that many millions of people, especially in the poorest parts of the world, depend on wheat from Ukraine. He spoke to a crowd of thousands gathered in St. Peter's Square and called for the removal of the block.
According to the United Nations, a global food crisis has worsened. The UN is trying to broker a deal with Ukraine to allow grain exports to be unblocked. However, Western leaders blame Russia for holding the world hostage by blocking ports in Ukraine.
The pope stated that "the blocking of Ukraine's wheat exports is very concerning because millions of people live on it, particularly in poorer countries."
"I appeal to you to make every effort to solve this problem and to ensure the universal right of nutrition. Please! To applause from the crowd, he said, "Do not use wheat, a staple foodtuff, to make a weapon for war."
Apart from the devastation caused by Russia's invasion, the West's attempts to punish Russia have seen the prices of food, fuel, and grain soar, causing global growth to be hampered.
Moscow refers to the invasion as a "special military operations". The pope has condemned it often.
However, Wednesday marked the first time he spoke out about the global food crisis.
According to an agriculture official, Ukraine is trying desperately to export its huge grain stocks by rail, road, and river to help avoid the crisis. However, Russia must lift its blockade at its Black Sea ports.