Pope Francis: World already in 'third World War' being fought piecemeal

Pope Francis made the comment in reference to Ukraine but warned that similar conflicts will be fought piecemeal over time

Pope Francis described current international conflicts as the "third World War."

The pope made the comment during his usual general audience, where he acknowledged the anniversary of World War II's dramatic beginnings.

"Tomorrow you will remember the anniversary of the outbreak of World War II, which so painfully marked the Polish nation," the pope said Wednesday.

"May the memory of past experiences urge you to cultivate peace in yourselves, in your families, in social and international life."

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Pope Francis speaks to cardinals at St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican during a mass he celebrated for the newly created cardinals Aug. 30, 2022.

Pope Francis speaks to cardinals at St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican during a mass he celebrated for the newly created cardinals Aug. 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Regarding the ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces, the pope said the war is only one in a much larger geopolitical conflict, according to Vatican state media. 

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Pope Francis arrives to take part in a public mass at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton July 26, 2022. 

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The pope referred to the current era as the "third World War," saying the overarching conflict will most likely play out piecemeal, unlike previous global wars, according to Vatican media.

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The pope encouraged listeners to pray for Ukraine and asked the Virgin Mary to intercede and support Ukrainians' "daily choice of goodness, justice and solidarity with those in need, generating hope, joy and inner freedom in your hearts."