Pope Francis on Friday denounced Russia’s “perverted abuse of power” on display in Ukraine’s war and called for aid to Ukrainians, who said their “identity, history and tradition” had been attacked and “their land”. were protecting”.
Francis’ comments in a message to a gathering of European Catholic representatives marked some of the strongest ones yet to assert Ukraine’s right to exist as a sovereign state and defend itself against Russian invasion. did.
This came just days after Francis told the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, that the concept of “just war” was obsolete because wars are never justified and that the clergy should preach peace, not politics.
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Those comments, during a video call with Kirill on Wednesday, were an indirect attack on the war patriarch’s apparent defense. Kirill, who is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, has justified the invasion by describing it as a struggle against sin and pressure from liberal foreigners to hold a “gay parade”. He has blamed the West and a fellow conservative patriarch of fueling animosity between Ukraine and Russia and insisted Putin is “one people”.
In his comments on Friday, Francis did not mention Russia by name – evidence of the Vatican’s tradition of not identifying the attackers and its efforts to keep talks with Kirill’s church open. But Francis strongly supported Ukraine.
“The heart-wrenching cry for help from our Ukrainian brethren prompts us as a community of believers to not only for serious reflection, but to cry with them and work for them; in their own identity, history and tradition. To share the anguish of those injured,” Francis said at the meeting in Bratislava, Slovakia.
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“The blood and tears of children, the suffering of women and men defending their land or fleeing from bombs shake our conscience. Once again humanity is threatened by a perverted abuse of power and partisan interests, which condemn the defenseless to suffer all forms of brutal violence. ,
For his part, Kirill insisted that Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who spoke by video call with the patriarch this week, understood the Russian situation and were “sympathetic” to it. He reiterated that the goal of the Russian Orthodox Church was to “preserve the spiritual unity of our people – the Russian and Ukrainian peoples – as a single people that emerged from the Kyiv baptismal font” despite the “very negative political context”.
Neither the Vatican nor Lambeth Palace sympathized with the Russian position in their readouts of the call and did not refer to Russians and Ukrainians as one person.
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