Select Page

Job Seekers - Achev - Connecting Skilled Newcomers with Employers 2
Job Seekers - Achev - Connecting Skilled Newcomers with Employers 2
Freedom Heart Ukraine
Job Seekers - Achev - Connecting Skilled Newcomers with Employers

Putting the Pope’s comments in their proper context. A deliberately provocative question leads to an answer that shows a definite pro-Russian bias

Mar 27, 2024 | Editorials, Featured

Pope Francis with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill

Marco Levytsky, Editorial Writer.

Pope Francis’ comments, made during an interview with Swiss broadcaster RSI, that Ukraine should have the “courage” to raise the “white flag” have been met with universal criticism in Ukraine and among Ukraine’s allies in the West.

“How about, for balance, encouraging Putin to have the courage to withdraw his army from Ukraine? Peace would immediately ensue without the need for negotiations,” said Polish Foreign Affairs Minister Radek Sikorski in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

In a separate post, Sikorski drew parallels between those calling for negotiations while “denying [Ukraine] the means to defend itself” and the “appeasement” efforts of European leaders with Adolf Hitler just before the Second World War. Andrii Yurash, Ukraine's ambassador to the Holy See, said that it was “necessary to learn lessons” from the 1939-45 conflict.

“Ukraine is wounded but unconquered!” said Ukrainian Greek Catholic Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk during a meeting with Ukrainians in New York City. “Ukraine is exhausted, but it stands and will endure. Believe me, it never crosses anyone's mind to surrender. Even where there is fighting today: Listen to our people in Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Odesa, Kharkiv, Sumy,” he added referring to some of the centres that have endured an ongoing barrage of missiles.

Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni later clarified that the Pope supported “a stop to hostilities [and] a truce achieved with the courage of negotiations,” rather than an outright Ukrainian surrender. Bruni said the journalist interviewing Francis used the term “white flag” in the question, prompting the controversial remarks.

Although the interview wasn’t broadcast until March 20, transcripts of the interview were sent to ANSA, the Italian news agency, and to Reuters on March 9. Soon after, the Vatican published the full transcript in Italian.

Context is always important when reporting on an interview and an English-language transcript of both the question that was posed, and the Pope’s response was published in America: The Jesuit Review on March 10. The interview dealt with both the war in Gaza as well as Ukraine. So, let’s examine the Pope’s comments in their full context.

The Swiss interviewer, Lorenzo Buccella, stated: “Some in Ukraine ask for the courage to surrender, to raise the white flag, while others say this would legitimize the stronger one,” referring to Russia. He asked for the Pope’s opinion on this.

The Pope replied as follows:

“That is one interpretation. But I believe that the ‘stronger one’ is the one who sees the situation, who thinks of the people, who has the courage of the white flag, to negotiate. And today, negotiations are possible with the help of international powers. The word ‘negotiate’ is a courageous word. When you see that you are defeated, that things are not going well, it is necessary to have the courage to negotiate. You may feel ashamed, but with how many deaths will it end? Negotiate in time; look for some country that can mediate. Today, for example in the war in Ukraine, there are many who want to mediate. Turkey has offered itself for this. And others. Do not be ashamed to negotiate before things get worse.”

From a journalistic standpoint that question was deliberately provocative and even misleading since the vast majority of Ukrainians are totally against any form of negotiation that doesn’t involve the removal of all Russian troops from their sovereign territory. As such, the proper answer to such a question would be something along these lines:

“Please explain who, in Ukraine, asks ‘for the courage to surrender, to raise the white flag’, because all evidence points to the contrary. And yes, it would most certainly legitimize the stronger one, namely Russia. It would also legitimize a violation of the post-World War II European order recognizing the unbreakable sovereignty of nations, a violation of the Budapest Memorandum under which Ukraine voluntarily gave up the world’s third largest nuclear arsenal, it would legitimize the relentless killing of civilians, the torture of prisoners of war, and an ongoing genocidal campaign to destroy Ukraine as a nation among other moral abominations and profoundly depraved outcomes.”

Not only did the Pope not give such a response but he decided to ignore the aggressor altogether and put the onus on the victim to have “the courage of the white flag, to negotiate… When you see that you are defeated.”

The answer is just another example of the pro-Russian bias the Pope has demonstrated ever since the full-scale invasion began.

Right from the beginning he was reluctant to name Moscow as an aggressor claiming instead that it was his wish to remain neutral in the conflict. Thus, he decided to have both a Ukrainian and a Russian woman carry a cross together during that year’s Good Friday evening procession. Patriarch Sviatoslav called the idea “inappropriate and ambiguous and does not take into account the context of Russian military aggression against Ukraine.”

Then, in an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that ran May 3, 2022 Francis said that the real “scandal” of Putin’s war is “NATO barking at Russia’s door,” which he said caused the Kremlin to “react badly and unleash the conflict.” This was utter nonsense. The reason NATO expanded into former Soviet satellites or republics was because they, themselves, asked to join as they had suffered incredibly under Russian occupation and wanted to defend against any future aggression. The invasion of Ukraine proved how right they were.

He sunk to a new low during a video address broadcast to a gathering of Russia’s Catholic youth in St. Petersburg on Aug. 25, 2023, when he said: “Never forget the legacy. You are the descendants of great Russia: great Russia of saints, rulers of great Russia Peter I, Catherine II, that empire – great, educated, great culture and great humanity. Never forsake this legacy. You are the descendants of the great mother of Russia, step forward with it”.

Patriarch Sviatoslav expressed “great pain and concern” over the Pontiff’s statement noting: “The words about ‘the great Russia of Peter I, Catherine II, that great, enlightened empire — a country of great culture and great humanity’ — are the worst example of imperialism and extreme Russian nationalism. There is a danger that these words could be taken as supporting the very nationalism and imperialism that has caused the war in Ukraine today — a war that brings death and destruction to our people every day.”

The Pope’s pro-Russian bias can be attributed to his ongoing desire to befriend the Russian Orthodox Church. This is totally misguided because the Russian Orthodox Church is not a Christian church but a pseudo-religious body that has subordinated the teachings of Jesus Christ to the authority of a totalitarian dictatorship. Moreover, this has been the case ever since the reign of Peter I, Butcher of Baturyn, if not the reign of Ivan the Terrible, which began more than a century earlier.

What would be much more appropriate would be for the Holy Father to consult his Ukrainian Catholic leadership in advance of any future interviews in order to prevent him from ever again making such ill-considered and harmful comments about Ukraine. A wise first step would be to appoint Patriarch Sviatoslav a cardinal and, thereafter, to seek his good counsel each and every time the Pope even remotely considers making any further public pronouncements about Ukraine.

In the meantime, the Pope should continue to pray for peace in Ukraine as all of us should. But he should also pray for guidance – to St. John Paul II.

Share on Social Media

Pace Law Firm
Stop The Excuses
2/10 Years of War

Events will be approved within 2 business days after submission. Please contact us if you have any questions.

Manage Subsctiption

Check your subscription status, expiry dates, billing and shipping address, and more in your subscription account.