Pope Francis accuses 'cruel' Russia of 'imperialism' in Ukraine

Pope Francis accuses ‘cruel’ Russia of ‘armed conquest, expansionism and imperialism’ in Ukraine – weeks after suggesting Putin’s invasion was ‘perhaps in some way provoked’

  • The pope said the Russia-Ukraine war is pitting Christians against each other
  • He branded the Kremlin’s actions as a ‘senseless war of aggression’
  • Francis faced a backlash weeks ago for suggesting NATO had provoked Russia 

Pope Francis has accused Russia of carrying out a ‘cruel and senseless war of aggression’ just weeks after he was slammed for suggesting Vladimir Putin’s invasion was ‘provoked’.

The Catholic leader told a delegation of Orthodox leaders in Rome that the Kremlin is engaged in ‘armed conquest, expansionism and imperialism’ in Ukraine.

He referred to the conflict as one pitting Christians against one another, with Ukraine home to a sizeable Catholic minority.

Pope Francis has accused Russia of carrying out a ‘cruel and senseless war of aggression’ just weeks after he was slammed for suggesting Vladimir Putin’s invasion was ‘provoked’ (pictured yesterday)

‘Reconciliation among separated Christians, as a means of contributing to peace between peoples in conflict, is a most timely consideration these days, as our world is disrupted by a cruel and senseless war of aggression in which many, many Christians are fighting one another,’ the pope said.

The Eastern and Western branches of Christianity separated in the Great Schism of 1054.

The pope also told his Orthodox visitors, in a clear reference to Russia, that all needed ‘to recognise that armed conquest, expansionism and imperialism have nothing to do with the kingdom that Jesus proclaimed’.

It was the second consecutive day that the Pope spoke on the Ukraine conflict. 

On Wednesday he condemned the bombing of a crowded shopping centre in the city of Kremenchuk, the latest in string of ‘barbarous attacks’ against Ukraine.

But the critical comments towards Russia come two weeks after the pope faced a backlash with his sympathetic remarks towards the invasion.

The Catholic leader told a delegation of Orthodox leaders in Rome that the Kremlin is engaged in ‘armed conquest, expansionism and imperialism’ in Ukraine (Putin pictured today with Indonesian president Joko Widodo)

In the text of a conversation he held last month with editors of Jesuit media, he said the situation was not black and white and that the war was ‘perhaps in some way provoked’ by NATO.

Francis also declared that World War III had already begun but denied being ‘pro-Putin’.

He said Russian troops were brutal, cruel and ferocious, while praising the bravery of Ukrainian soldiers who have been fighting for their country’s survival since the invasion began in February. 

The Ukraine war has caused deep divisions among world Orthodoxy. 

The patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), Kirill, has given his full-throated blessing to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The aftermath of a rocket attack on the Mashhidropryvid plant by the Russian troops is seen in Kharkiv

His position has splintered the worldwide Orthodox Church and unleashed an internal rebellion which has led to some local Orthodox Churches once linked to the ROC to sever ties. 

Putin, a member of the ROC, has described Moscow’s actions in Ukraine as a ‘special military operation’ aimed at demilitarising and ‘denazifying’ the country. The pope has rejected such terminology.

In an interview published last month in an Italian newspaper, Francis said Kirill ‘cannot become Putin’s altar boy’. The ROC later scolded the pope over the remark.

Francis was to have met Kirill on June 14 in Jerusalem but the plan was cancelled in April on the advice of Vatican diplomats.

It would have been only their second meeting. Their first, in Cuba in 2016, was the first between a pope and a leader of the Russian Orthodox Church since the Great Schism.

Earlier this month Britain sanctioned Kirill for ‘his prominent support of Russian military aggression in Ukraine’.

Hungary blocked an EU attempt to sanction him.

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