Pope Francis has said Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine “may have been provoked in some way” while recalling a conversation in the run-up to the war in which he warned that NATO was “barking at Russia’s doors”.
In an interview with the Jesuit magazine La Civiltà Cattolica, conducted last month and published on Tuesday, the pope condemned the “ferociousness and cruelty of the Russian forces” while warning of what he said was a fanciful depiction of the conflict as good versus evil.
“We need to move away from the usual pattern of Little Red Riding Hood, where Little Red was good and Wolf was the bad,” he said. “Something global is emerging and the elements are very intertwined.”
Francis added that he had met two months before the war with a head of state, whom he did not identify, but described as “a wise man who speaks very little, a very wise man indeed … He told me he was very concerned about how NATO would deal with him. He was moving. I asked him why.” He replied, “They are barking at the gates of Russia. They do not understand that the Russians are imperialists and no foreign power can approach them.”
“We don’t see the whole drama unfolding behind this war, which may have been either provoked or not prevented somehow,” he added.
Shortly before the invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin NATO demanded the exclusion of allowing Ukraine, which borders Russia, to join the military alliance.
The Pope said he was not “pro-Putin” and that it would be “simplistic and wrong to say such a thing”. He also said Russia “misjudged” the war. “It is also true that the Russians believed that it would be over in a week. They faced a brave people, a people struggling for survival with a history of struggle.”
On Tuesday morning, the Pope published a message reporting the invasion Ukraine It was a violation of any country’s right to self-determination.
“The war in Ukraine has now been added to the regional wars that for years have caused great loss of life and destruction,” he said in a message on the occasion of the International Day of the Poor in the Roman Catholic Church, which will be celebrated in November. However, the situation here is more complicated by the direct intervention of a “superpower” with the aim of imposing its will in violation of the principle of self-determination of peoples.
Meanwhile, he told La Civiltà Cattolica he hopes to meet the Russian Orthodox Patriarch, Kirill, a close ally of Putin who supports the war in Ukraine, at an interfaith event in Kazakhstan in September.
Kirill scolded Francis after the Pope urged him not to become the Kremlin’s “altar boy” in an interview with Corriere della Sera newspaper. Kirill accused the pope of choosing an “incorrect tone” to deliver his message, adding that such statements would harm the dialogue between the two churches.
The two had been due to meet in Jerusalem in June, but the trip was canceled due to the war.
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