Vatican: Pope Francis’ Ukraine War comments not a ‘political stance’

Pope Francis speaks at his general audience in Paul VI Hall on Aug. 10, 2022. Pope Francis speaks at his general audience in Paul VI Hall on Aug. 10, 2022. | Daniel Ibanez/CNA

The Holy See said Pope Francis’ recent comments on a car bombing that killed the daughter of an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin should not be interpreted as a “political stance.”

In a statement released Aug. 30, the Vatican also called the Russia-Ukraine conflict a “large-scale war in Ukraine, initiated by the Russian Federation.”

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, some of Pope Francis’ comments have come under criticism, including a statement he made in an interview in June that Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine was “perhaps somehow provoked.”

He was also rebuked by Ukraine’s Vatican Ambassador last week for his characterization of the Aug. 20 death of Darya Dugina, a 29-year-old journalist and political commentator known for her support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Dugina was the daughter of Aleksandr Dugin, a Russian political thinker believed to be close to Putin.

The Holy See’s unsigned communication said Pope Francis has made “numerous speeches” on the Ukraine War “mostly aimed at inviting pastors and the faithful to prayer, and all people of goodwill to solidarity and efforts to rebuild peace.”

“It is reiterated that the Holy Father’s words on this tragic issue should be read as a voice raised in defense of human life and the values attached to it, and not as taking a political stance,” the Holy See said.

The Vatican’s statement appeared to refer in part to criticism over Pope Francis’ Aug. 24 appeal for an end to the war in Ukraine, in which he referenced Dugina’s death.

“I think of that poor girl blown up by a bomb under her car seat in Moscow. The innocent pay for war, the innocent! Let us think about this reality and say to each other: war is madness,” Francis said at the end of his general audience.

Ukraine’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Andrii Yurash, criticized Francis’ remarks on Twitter, writing that the speech “was disappointing” and conflated the categories of “aggressor and victim.”

The Holy See’s statement said, “on more than one occasion, as well as in recent days, public discussions have arisen on the political significance to be attached to [Pope Francis’] speeches” on the war in Ukraine.

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

Pope Francis’ most recent mention of Ukraine was during his Aug. 28 trip to the central Italian town of L’Aquila.

After leading the Angelus, he said: “Let us pray for the people of Ukraine and for all those who suffer because of war. May the God of peace revive a human and Christian sense of pity and mercy in the hearts of the leaders of nations. Mary, Mother of Mercy and Queen of Peace, pray for us.”

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