Vatican Defends Pope After Ukraine War Comments

Pope Francis during his August 24 general audience, where he condemned “the madness on both sides” of the war in Ukraine.

CNS/Guglielmo Mangiapane, Reuters

The Vatican has hit back at criticism of Pope Francis’ recent comments on the war in Ukraine, which led the Ukrainian government to file a formal protest with the Apostolic Nuncio in the country.

The Holy See issued a statement Tuesday stressing that the pope’s remarks “must be interpreted as a raised voice in defense of human life and the values ​​associated with it, and not as a political position”.

She pointed to “numerous interventions by the Holy Father Francis and his collaborators” which “aim to invite pastors and the faithful to prayer, and all people of good will to solidarity and efforts to rebuild peace”.

During his audience this week, on August 31, Francis marked the impending anniversary of the outbreak of World War II and described the war in Ukraine as part of a piecemeal “World War III”.

The Holy See’s statement followed what Vatican News called a “controversy” in response to the Pope’s comments during his August 24 general audience, in which he specified the death of Darya Dugina as an example of “the madness of the war”. Ms Dugina, a Russian journalist and daughter of nationalist philosopher Alexander Dugin, was killed in an alleged car bomb attack in Moscow on August 20.

Ukraine’s ambassador to the Holy See, Andrii Yurash, said the remarks were “disappointing”.

“We cannot talk about the aggressor and the victim, the rapist and the raped in the same categories,” he wrote on Twitter. “How can you call one of the ideologues of Russian imperialism an innocent victim?” He claimed that Ms Dugina had been killed by the Russian authorities.

The Vatican statement noted these “public discussions [which] questioned the political significance to be attributed to such interventions”.

“As for the large-scale war, initiated by the Russian Federation,” he continued, “the interventions of the Holy Father are clear and unequivocal in condemning it as morally unjust, unacceptable, barbaric, senseless, repugnant and sacrilege”.

Commentators have observed that the specific accusation of “sacrilege” follows the announcement that Francis will not meet Patriarch Kirill of Moscow in September. The meeting was supposed to take place at a congress of religious leaders in Kazakhstan from September 13-15, but last week the Moscow Patriarchate announced that Kirill would not attend, as Reuters reported.

Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk, the Patriarchate’s director of external relations, said no meeting should be held on the sidelines of another gathering. “It has to be an independent event, because of its importance,” he said.

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