Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Frail Pope Francis criticises Russia’s war in Ukraine and appeals for peace

 Aides help Pope Francis to stand up during a Mass at the Expo Grounds in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan

Pope Francis has told the Russian Orthodox hierarchy and other faith leaders that religion must never be used to justify the “evil” of war.

He asked at an outdoor Mass in Kazakhstan “how many deaths will it take?” for peace to prevail in Ukraine.

An increasingly frail Francis, 85, made the appeal during his first full day in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, where he opened a global interfaith conference and ministered to the tiny Catholic community in the majority Muslim country.

In the conference audience of imams, patriarchs, rabbis and muftis was Metropolitan Anthony, in charge of foreign relations for the Russian Orthodox Church, which has firmly backed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

His boss, Patriarch Kirill, was supposed to have participated in the congress but cancelled last month.

Mr Kirill has supported Russia’s invasion on spiritual and ideological grounds, calling it a “metaphysical” battle with the West.

He has blessed Russian soldiers going into war and invoked the idea that Russians and Ukrainians are one people.

Francis did not mention Russia or Ukraine in his remarks to the Kazakh conference.

But he insisted that faith leaders themselves must take the lead in promoting a culture of peace, since it would be hypocritical to expect that non-believers will promote peace if religious leaders do not.

“If the creator, to whom we have devoted our lives, is the author of human life, how can we who call ourselves believers consent to the destruction of that life?” he asked.

“Mindful of the wrongs and errors of the past, let us unite our efforts to ensure that the Almighty will never again be held hostage to the human thirst for power.”

Francis then laid down a challenge to all those in the room to commit themselves to resolving disputes through dialogue and negotiation, not with arms.

“May we never justify violence. May we never allow the sacred to be exploited by the profane. The sacred must never be a prop for power, nor power a prop for the sacred.”

He made the appeal more explicit in an afternoon outdoor Mass for Kazakhstan’s tiny Catholic community, in which he asked for prayers for “beloved Ukraine”.

“How many deaths will it still take before conflict yields to dialogue for the good of people, nations and all humanity?” he asked.

“The one solution is peace and the only way to arrive at peace is through dialogue.”

Mr Kirill sent a message to the congress read aloud by Anthony.

In it, the Russian patriarch did not refer to the war but in general to problems over the past two decades caused by “attempts to build a world without relying on moral values”.

The Russian patriarch has blasted the West’s secular mentality and claimed the seeds of the Ukraine conflict were sown by foreign threats to Russia’s borders.

He has depicted the conflict as a struggle against a foreign liberal establishment purportedly demanding countries hold “gay parades” as the price of admission to a world of excess consumption and freedom.

“These attempts have led not only to the loss of the concept of justice in international relations, but also to brutal confrontation, military conflicts, the spread of terrorism and extremism in different parts of the world,” Mr Kirill said in his message.

Suggesting he feels Russia is the victim of a smear campaign, he denounced the spread of misinformation and the “distortion of historical facts” and “manipulation of mass consciousness” to spread messages of “hatred towards entire peoples, cultures and religions”.

No comments: