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Eastern Express 19.09

The Pope’s public statements about Russia’s full-scale aggression against Ukraine have been repeatedly criticised by observers. He has been accused of failing to name the aggressor once the invasion began, The Holy See maintaining diplomatic contacts with Moscow, as well as criticising Western sanctions and arms deliveries to Ukraine.

During his three-day visit to Kazakhstan, the Pope made several references to the war in Ukraine, calling it “tragic and senseless”, again holding Russia responsible for the war, but stated that dialogue with the aggressor needs to be held in order to end it, even if this dialogue may seem an unpleasant option. Lastly, he stated that the supply of arms to Ukraine for its self-defence is morally justified. All of this undoubtedly represents a clarification of the Pope’s position on the issue of Russian aggression.

This is a big breakthrough because, according to the more critical commentators, Pope Francis has up to now left a lot to be desired when it comes to his stance on Russia’s brutal war.

These critics point toward certain early signals, such as being more willing to travel to Moscow than to Kyiv. Moreover, when the Pontiff stated infamously that one of the causes of the war may have been “NATO barking at Russia’s door”, some commentators winced at what they understood as essentially a carbon copy of Russia’s prevailing narrative being used to justify the war.

The Vatican’s policy toward Russia, and later toward the USSR and the Soviet bloc countries, was far from unambiguous. This has always been weighed down by the hope of “converting Russia” to Catholicism, thereby returning to the unity of Christianity, and overturning the Eastern Schism of 1054. Moscow, on the other hand, always saw itself as the “Third Rome”, and as the only true heir to Eastern Christianity, in continuing the tradition of Byzantine Caesaropapism.

Many people were astonished by the fact that the Holy See remained among the few who were afraid to call aggression and the aggressor by their name. In seeking a moral compass that would show them the right path, they instead were met with ambiguity and stubborn attempts at diplomacy, which have ultimately fallen flat.

Eastern Express’ guest

Father Stanisław Tasiemski, Vice-President of Catholic News Agency (KAI), was invited to shed more light on the issue.

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