Pope Francis calls Putin’s invasion of Ukraine ‘childish and destructive’

VALLETTA, Malta (AP) — Pope Francis said on Saturday he was considering a possible visit to kyiv and he criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin for launching a “savage” war. Speaking after arriving in Malta, he delivered his sharpest and most personalized denunciation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Francis did not name Russian President Vladimir Putin by name, but the reference was clear when he said that “a potentate” had unleashed the threat of nuclear war on the world in an “infantile and destructive aggression” under covered in “anachronistic claims”. nationalist interests.

“We had thought that invasions from other countries, savage street fights and atomic threats were dark memories of the distant past,” Francis told Maltese officials and diplomats in the Mediterranean island nation at the start of a weekend visit.

Francis has so far avoided referring to Russia or Putin by name. But Saturday’s personalization of the powerful official marked a new level of outrage for the pope.

“Once again, a potentate, unfortunately caught up in anachronistic claims of nationalist interest, is provoking and fomenting conflict, while ordinary people feel the need to build a shared future or not at all,” he said. declared.

Pope Francis prepares to address authorities and the diplomatic corps in the Grand Council Chamber of the Grand Master’s Presidential Palace on April 02, 2022 in Valletta, Malta, on the first day of the Pope’s two-day trip to the Mediterranean archipelago.


The Vatican tends not to call abusers in hopes of keeping dialogue options open. The Vatican, which in recent years has forged unprecedented new ties with the Putin-allied Russian Orthodox Church, had offered itself as a potential mediator but has so far been largely left on the diplomatic sidelines.

Francis told reporters en route to Malta that a possible visit to kyiv was “on the table”, but no date has been set or any travel confirmed. The mayor of the Ukrainian capital had invited Francis to come as a messenger of peace with other religious personalities.

Francis also said that the war had hurt his heart so much that he sometimes forgets the pain in his knees. Francis has been suffering for months from a strained ligament in his right knee. The inflammation got so bad that the Vatican organized a tarmac lift to get him on and off the plane for Saturday’s flight to Malta.

The visit, originally scheduled for May 2020, was still meant to focus on migration, given Malta’s role at the heart of the European migration debate.

Addressing the President of Malta alongside him, Francis denounced the “squalid deals” the European Union has made with Libya to push back migrants and said Europe must show humanity by welcoming them. He called for the Mediterranean to be a “theater of solidarity, and not the harbinger of a tragic shipwreck of civilisation”.

Francis was referring to the EU’s seven-year-old program to train the Libyan Coastguard, which patrols the North African country’s Mediterranean coast for migrant smuggling operations and brings potential refugees back to shore. The scheme has been embraced and strongly supported by Italy and other frontline Mediterranean countries in an attempt to stem the flow of hundreds of thousands of desperate migrants who pay Libya-based smugglers to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. .

Human rights groups have condemned the EU-funded program as a violation of migrants’ rights and have documented gross abuses in the detention camps where returning migrants are then held. Just last week, Germany said its army would no longer provide training to the Libyan coast guard given its “unacceptable” and, in some cases, illegal treatment of migrants.

Francis condemned Libyan detention centers as concentration camps, but he went further on Saturday by shaming the EU for its complicity in abuses.

“Civilized countries cannot approve in their own interests sordid deals with criminals who enslave other human beings,” he said. “Unfortunately, this is happening.”

“Today, as those crossing the Mediterranean in search of salvation are greeted with fear and the tale of ‘invasion’, and safeguarding one’s own safety at all costs seems to be the primary objective, let us help the each other not to see the migrant as a threat and not to give in to the temptation to raise drawbridges and erect walls,” he said.

“Others are not a virus we need to be protected from, but people to accept,” he said.

Malta, the smallest country in the European Union with half a million inhabitants, has long been at the forefront of the flow of migrants and refugees across the Mediterranean. He has frequently called on his larger European neighbors to shoulder more of the burden of hosting potential refugees.

Francis frequently echoed that call and linked it on Saturday to the welcome the Maltese gave to the Apostle Paul, who, according to the biblical account, was shipwrecked off Malta around the year 60 while he was traveling to Rome and showed unusual kindness to the islanders. .

Associated Press religious coverage receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.


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