Pope Francis warns Russian Orthodox Patriarch not to be ‘Putin’s altar boy’ | United States and world

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Cyril will to “justify the Russian invasion” of Ukraine belittles his office on behalf of Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to Pope Francis.

“I spoke with Kirill for 40 minutes on Zoom. For the first 20 minutes he read on a piece of paper he was holding in his hand all the reasons justifying the Russian invasion,” the Roman pontiff said. to an Italian media. “I listened to him and then I replied: I do not understand any of this. Brother, we are not state clerics, we should not speak the language of politics, but rather the language of Jesus “We are shepherds of the same holy flock of God. For this reason, we must seek a path to peace, we must stop the fighting. A patriarch cannot stoop to becoming Putin’s altar boy.”

This rebuke contained the pope’s sharpest criticism of Moscow’s behavior in recent months. His remarks on the war reflected a more agnostic attitude and apparent uncertainty about the extent of Russia’s progress on the battlefield as he blamed NATO for “barking at Russia’s gates” and underlined his concern about the spread of the conflict.

“I have no way of knowing if his rage was provoked,” Pope said. “I suspect it may have been facilitated by the attitude of the West.”

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Likewise, he expressed uncertainty about the appropriateness of providing military aid to Ukraine and compared the current crisis to the Spanish Civil War, when Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union provided substantial military support. to opposing parties.

“I can’t answer that question, I live too far away, I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do to supply Ukrainian fighters,” he said. “What seems indisputable is that in this country both sides are trying new weapons. The Russians have just found out that tanks are useless and they could develop new weapons. Wars are also fought for this reason : test your arsenals. This is what happened during the Spanish Civil War, before the Second World War.”

These tentative comments dismayed some Ukrainian observers, as they amplified Russian claims that NATO’s acceptance of membership applications from several Central and Eastern European countries, and Ukraine’s long-standing desire to join the alliance, have created an intolerable risk that NATO will one day attack Russia from Ukraine. .

“It’s really a pity[e] that time and time again he refuses the agency of the Ukrainians and does not want to listen to what they say”, Olga Tokariuk, non-resident of the Center for European Policy Analysis, freelance journalist, wrote on Twitter in response to the interview. “To be fair, he did not explicitly accuse NATO of provoking Russia, but alleged that ‘NATO was barking at Russia’s door’ and the West could be held responsible for the invasion. of Ukraine. A striking misunderstanding of the reasons for this war.”

Putin claimed to fear such an eventuality before the war, but the Kremlin leader underlined his fundamental belief that the Ukrainian state should never have been formed, because its creation came at the expense of the defunct Russian empire. The pope, who hosted Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on April 21, suggested that the Hungarian leader – who has had a long meeting with Putin weeks before the war and drew strong criticism within NATO, even from former friends in Central Europe, for his lukewarm support for Ukraine – had particular insight into Putin’s intentions over the next few days.

“When I met Orban, he told me that the Russians had a specific plan and that the war would end on May 9,” Pope Francis said. “I hope so, that would explain the speed of military operations in recent days. Now the Russians have taken not only the Donbass region, but Crimea, Odessa, the Black Sea ports, everything.”

This prediction matches initial assessments that Putin wanted Russia’s annual victory celebration on May 9 in World War II to function as a sort of triumphal march for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but the minister Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has sought to temper that expectation in recent days as Russian forces have failed to achieve their military objectives. Pope Francis has exaggerated their success, given that Odessa and much of the Donbass region remain in Ukrainian hands.

“You can’t blame the Ukrainians for fighting back in Donbass. We’re talking about 10 years ago. It’s an old debate. Ukrainians are a proud people, that’s for sure,” he said. he said before referring to a recent controversy over his plan for a Ukrainian woman and a Russian woman to read a prayer together at a Good Friday service. “They are very sensitive, the Ukrainians, maybe because they were defeated and belittled after the Second World War, and they paid a very heavy price. So many lives lost, they are a martyred people. But don’t let’s not let our guard down, let’s keep an eye on what happens or could happen next in Transnistria.”

It is a reference to a breakaway region of Moldova, where Russia has long stationed a military contingent. Moldovan officials have accused Russia trying to recruit Transnistrians into the war, and a Russian military commander would have said Moscow was seeking “full control” of southern Ukraine and a land bridge to Transnistria.

“War is terrible, we must shout it with all our might,” the pope said. “I have a bad feeling, I admit it, I am very pessimistic. However, it is our duty to do everything to stop the war.”

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Yet the Roman Catholic leader is still hesitant to travel to Ukraine, as he still hopes to arrange a visit to Russia.

“I’m not ready to go to Kyiv, not yet,” he said. “I feel like I shouldn’t go. Not yet. First I have to go to Moscow, first I want to meet Putin. But in the end I’m just a priest, what the hell can I do well? I will do what I can. But if Putin decides to leave the door open.

Original location: Pope Francis warns Russian Orthodox Patriarch not to be ‘Putin’s altar boy’

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Edward K. Thompson