Pope Francis on the Russia-Ukraine crisis and the rift between the Orthodox churches: «It is sad that Christians think they are going to war. Whoever has political responsibilities should make a serious examination of conscience “
VATICAN CITY – «I have a great pain in my heart for the worsening of the situation in Ukraine. Like me, many people all over the world are trying distress and worry. Once again the peace of all is threatened by partisan interests“.
At the general audience, in the face of the “increasingly alarming scenarios” that are showing up in these hours, Pope francesco launched an appeal “to all, believers and non-believers” to “a day of fasting for peace“, the March 2: “Jesus taught us that the diabolical senselessness of violence is answered with the weapons of God: with prayer and fasting: I invite everyone to do March 2, Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting for peace. I encourage believers in a special way that they devote themselves intensely to prayer and fasting on that day. May the Queen of Peace preserve the world from the madness of war ».
The appeal to all, and in particular “to believers”, is significant.
Francis’ words, for once, are not primarily addressed to Catholicsthe
but in general to Christians: “God is the Father of all, not just of someone”. On Sunday he had already said to the Angelus: “How sad it is, when people and peoples proud of being Christians see others as enemies and think of making war!”.
The tension between Russia and Ukraine is reflected in the increasingly bitter division between the Orthodox churches of the two countries. The situation began to deteriorate in 2014, with the Russian annexation of Crimea. In 2018, the “Unification Council” meeting in Kiev sanctioned the birth of an autocephalous Ukrainian National Orthodox Church, i.e. independent of the Moscow Patriarchate. The recognition of the Ukrainian Church by the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew represented a dramatic rift in the Orthodox world. Moscow Patriarch Kirill spoke of “pseudo-council” and “Ukrainian schismatics”.
In this situation, Vatican diplomacy tries to mediate between the contenders.
Time ago a meeting is being prepared between Francesco and the Kirill after the historical one six years ago in Havana, as he had revealed in October al Courier service Metropolitan Hilarion, “foreign minister” of the Moscow Patriarchate: the Russian ambassador to the Holy See, Aleksandr Avdeev, spoke in recent days of a date “between June and July”.
In recent years, repeated invitations to the Pope have also come from Ukraine. Francis is ready to play the part of him, after all, “pontiff” really means “builder of bridges”, on December 17 he spoke with Putin who was calling him for good wishes on his birthday, a telephone appointment prepared for weeks.
That religion has become a tool for fueling divisions is demonstrated by the fact that it is Putin on Monday cited orthodoxy as an element of identity three times: «Ukraine is an integral part of Russian history… The people of this territory have been called Russian and Orthodox».
In this time of crisis, the Pope has been careful not to take the side of any of the contenders. He evoked the unheard appeal of Benedict XV against the “incivility of war” and the “useless massacre” of the First World War: «We hoped that there would be no need to repeat similar words in the third millennium, yet humanity still seems to be groping in darkness“.
Even today he has turned to the heads of nations, like his predecessor in 1917, to lay down their weapons: «Despite the diplomatic efforts of the last few weeks, increasingly alarming scenarios are opening up. I would like to appeal to those who have political responsibilities to make a serious examination of conscience before God, who is the God of peace and not of war, who is the Father of all, not just of someone, who wants us to be brothers and not enemies. I ask all the parties involved to refrain from any action that causes even more suffering to the populations, destabilizing coexistence and discrediting international law ”.