Vatican–Ukraine Quarrel: Pope Accused Of “Imperialist Propaganda”

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi: let’s work and pray for peace, my mission continues.

The accusations are too absurd, to be true. Unfortunately, the Kiev leaders attacked Pope Francis, accusing him of spreading “pro-Russian imperialist propaganda” in a speech given on August 25 via video link, on the occasion of Russian Youth Day in St. Petersburg.

Pope Francis spoke via video format for a little over an hour to about 400 young men and women participating in the 10th National Gathering of Catholic Youth in Russia. The Pontiff addressed the young Russian Catholics who have gathered in St. Catherine’s Basilica in St. Petersburg with a call to be “sowers of the seeds of reconciliation, the small seeds that will not sprout for a moment in this war winter in the frozen ground, but will bloom next spring.”

For the Holy See, “these celebrations, which have been held since 2000 and were organized this year for the first time in St. Petersburg, are of great importance.”

According to the Vatican News portal, the participants arrived in St. Petersburg from 54 cities of the Russian Federation, from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok. “Thanks to modern technology, we can embrace each other in the Spirit given to us, like the embraces of Mary and Elizabeth,” said in his opening speech Monsignor Paolo Pezzi, Ordinary of the Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow. According to event organizers, “this meeting is one of the few opportunities to get to know each other, share testimonies of faith, while communication with the Pope brings a special joy by giving the experience of not only unity within the local Church, but also unity with the Universal Church.”

In his video address, the Pope elaborated on the ideas expressed on July 4 in Lisbon on the occasion of World Youth Day. “I wish you, young Russians, to embark on a mission to be peacemakers in the midst of so many conflicts, so many polarizations that exist on all sides that afflict our world,” the Pontiff said, urging young Russians to have the courage to replace fears with dreams. “Replace fears with dreams. Be not administrators of fears, but entrepreneurs of dreams. Treat yourself to the luxury of dreaming big!” Pope Francis said.

The Pope’s words provoked a wave of protests in Kiev, where “an excerpt from the St. Petersburg speech attributed to the Pope” was quoted, but was missing in the official text published by the Department of Public Relations of the Vatican. According to Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko, Pope Francis urged young Russians to “never forget their heritage. You are the children of great Russia: the great Russia of saints, tsars, the great Russia of Peter I, Catherine II, this great, cultural empire with great culture and great humanity. Never give up on this heritage. You are the heirs of the great Mother Russia, continue with her.”

“It is indeed a pity that the ideas of a great Russian power that are actually the cause of Russia’s chronic aggressiveness, consciously or unconsciously, come from the lips of the Pope, whose mission, in our opinion, is actually to open the eyes of Russian youth about the destructive course of the current Russian leadership,” Nikolenko wrote on Facebook.

According to Avvenire newspaper, Pope Francis emphasized in his live speech that in Ukraine, as elsewhere, “diplomacy builds, not destroys” and “goes forward along the path where unity is higher than conflict.” When asked by a Russian girl about what, in the opinion of the Pontiff, diplomacy should be to overcome the conflict in Ukraine, Francis replied, “Diplomacy is moving forward along a path where unity transcends conflict. True diplomacy is not afraid of conflicts, but it does not encourage them: it accepts conflicts and moves forward with them through dialogue and prayer. Understanding the position of the other party and reducing errors. Diplomacy is not an easy task. Good diplomats bring many benefits to humanity. The work is not easy, but very rewarding. And this concerns the Ukrainian situation and other countries as well. Diplomacy always builds, not destroys.”

Vatican diplomacy directed at ending the armed conflict in Ukraine and what Francis called a “peaceful offensive” continues despite accusations from Kiev. Cardinal Matteo Maria Zuppi, Chairman of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Special Envoy of the Pope for Ukraine, Russia, and the United States, said in an interview that “we are continuing various contacts with a possible stop in Beijing.”

The Vatican has answers to the completely unfounded accusations by Kiev. “In the words of greeting addressed in recent days to some young Russian Catholics, as can be seen from the context in which he delivered them, the Pope intended to encourage the youth to preserve and promote everything positive in the great cultural and spiritual heritage of Russia and, of course, not for the sake of glorifying the imperialist logic and statesmen, cited to indicate certain historical periods.”

This was stated by the press service director of the Holy See, Matteo Bruni, regarding the words of the Pope, spoken via video link to young Russian Catholics, with whom he spoke about “great Russia.”