17 July 2023, The Tablet

Gallagher defends Francis’ ‘obstinate’ belief in peace

“The Holy Father's gestures and words are not the expression of a mere ‘rhetoric of peace’.”

Gallagher defends Francis’ ‘obstinate’ belief in peace

Archbishop Paul Gallagher during a visit to Kyiv in May last year.
Raj Valley / Alamy

The Holy See’s secretary for relations with states has acknowledged that “the reaction of Ukrainians to Pope Francis’ statements [on the Russian invasion] reflects a deep disappointment” but defended the Pope’s “desire to make dialogue and peace possible”.

Speaking last week at the launch of a book of geopolitical “Ukrainian lessons”, Archbishop Paul Gallagher said that it was wrong to treat Francis’ calls for dialogue “as acts of empty pacificism and expressions of the theatrical genre of pious wishful thinking”. 

The Pope, he said, “does not want to resign himself to war and is obstinate in believing in peace”.

Francis has faced criticism – and accusations of equivocation – for his reluctance to condemn Russia directly for its invasion of Ukraine last February. 

The Vatican has defended its policy of maintaining dialogue with all parties in the hope of facilitating a resolution.

“The Holy Father's gestures and words are not the expression of a mere ‘rhetoric of peace’,” said Archbishop Gallagher, “but of a strong and courageous ‘prophecy of peace’ which challenges the reality of war and its supposed inevitability.”

He said that the Vatican’s true position was evident in the repeated missions of the papal almoner Cardinal Konrad Krajewski to war-torn regions of Ukraine, and in the work of the Church in the country

Last week, Aid to the Church in Need reported that Bishop Maksym Ryabukha, an auxiliary in the Ukrainian Catholic Exarchate of Donetsk, had travelled more than 30,000 miles to administer to the part-occupied exarchate in the past seven months.

Archbishop Gallagher also noted that the apostolic nuncio had remained in Kyiv while other embassies evacuated to Lviv in western Ukraine, expressing “concrete Christian closeness to a martyred people and to favour peace”.

Pax Christi International has published a letter of support for Pope Francis’ appeal for a ceasefire, backed by over 40 interfaith representatives, which calls on religious leaders to “issue a public call among their congregants also to support a ceasefire”.

Citing the teachings of various major religions, it says: “The supernatural phenomena in ancient texts inspires us to embrace our convictions that radical devotion to human life can bring miracles, even in the most challenging situations.”

In the US, bishops expressed concern at the administration’s decision to deliver cluster bombs to Ukraine despite “their indiscriminate nature and risk to civilian populations long after fighting has ceased”.

Bishop David Malloy, chair of the bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, said: “While recognising Ukraine’s right to self-defence, we must continue to pray for dialogue and peace, and I join with our Holy Father in supporting and sharing in his moral concern and aspiration.”

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