31 August 2022, The Tablet

Vatican defends Pope in row over Ukraine war comments

A Holy See communiqué said the Pope had clearly condemned Russia's invasion as “senseless, repugnant and sacrilegious”.

Vatican defends Pope in row over Ukraine war comments

Pope Francis at his general audience on 24 August, where he condemned “madness on both sides” of the war in Ukraine.
CNS/Guglielmo Mangiapane, Reuters

The Vatican has issued a riposte to criticism of Pope Francis’s recent comments on the war in Ukraine, which had led the Ukrainian government to lodge an official protest with the apostolic nuncio to the country.

The Holy See issued a communiqué on Tuesday emphasising that the Pope’s words “should be interpreted as a voice raised in defence of human life and the values associated with it, and not as a political stance”.

It pointed to “numerous interventions by the Holy Father Francis and his collaborators” which “are aimed at inviting pastors and the faithful to prayer, and all people of good will to solidarity and efforts to rebuild peace”.

In his audience this week, on 31 August, Francis marked the imminent anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World and described the war in Ukraine as part of a “third world war” being fought piecemeal.

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

The Ukrainian ambassador to the Holy See, Andrii Yurash, said that the remarks were “disappointing”.

“You can’t 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 communiqué noted these “public discussions [which] have arisen on the political significance to be attributed to such interventions”.

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

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

Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk, the patriarchate’s foreign relations director, said that any meeting should not be on the fringes of another gathering. “It must be an independent event, due to its importance,” he said.

On Wednesday, Pope Francis sent his condolences to the daughter of the former Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev, who died on Tuesday at the age of 91.

In a telegram to Irina Gorbachev, the Pope expressed his spiritual closeness and recalled Mr Gorbachev's role in ending the Cold War.

“As we gratefully remember his far-sighted commitment to concord and fraternity among peoples,” said Francis, “as well as to the progress of his own country at a time of important changes, I raise prayers of suffrage, invoking eternal peace for his soul from the good and merciful God.”

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