Pope Francis has failed to be a spiritual mediator in Ukraine | Popgen Tech
Wanyway pope Francis looks up from his writing, he is reminded of Ukraine. On his desk sits an icon he acquired as archbishop of Buenos Aires as a parting gift from one of his bishops, Svyatoslav Shevchuk, who returned to Kiev in 2011 to lead the Ukrainian Greek Catholic church. It was one of the few possessions that Francis brought to Rome. The depth of his concern for Ukraine became clear on December 8 when he was moved to tears when he mentioned its suffering during a ceremony in Rome.
But as Christmas approaches, it is clear that Francis’ efforts to position himself as a mediator between Russia and Ukraine have failed. The pope is an outsider in a clash between two mostly Orthodox countries. He also repeatedly contradicted the Ukrainians and Russians with his statements and omissions.
Early in the war, the pope condemned the invasion as “unacceptable armed aggression”, denounced the Bucha massacres and kissed a Ukrainian flag sent to him from the town. In an interview, he warned the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, not to become “Putin’s altar boy”. But he did not identify Russia as the aggressor. In an interview published in June, he appeared to reach out to Russian leaders, saying the invasion was “perhaps provoked in some way” and cautioning against viewing the war as a simple story of good versus evil. not considered
More recently, he has been more critical of the Kremlin, especially after meeting with Archbishop Shevchuk on November 7. Last month he angered the regime in Moscow by declaring that troops from two ethnic minorities, the Chechens and Buryats, were the most brutal. The Vatican has since issued a highly unusual apology.
This zigzag reflects some of the outstanding features of Francis’ papacy. He is open to interviews and reluctant to listen to the Vatican’s official diplomats, instead forming his views in conversations with a changing circle of interlocutors. But the first Latin American pope also has a deep distrust of the United States and believes that the Vatican’s place lies somewhere between the West and its enemies. His failure to see the obvious in Ukraine highlights the limits of such an attempt at equidistance.
Read more of our recent coverage of the Ukraine crisis.