Friday, September 29, 2023

    Outrage in Ukraine over Pope’s Russia comment: explained

    The recent statements of Pope Francis, addressing Russia’s Catholic youths in St Petersburg on August 25, caused quite a stir in Ukraine.

    It should be recalled that in the video address, the Pontiff said: “Never forget about heritage. You are the descendants of the great Russia: the great Russia of saints, rulers, the great Russia of Peter I, Catherine II, that empire – great, educated, (the country) of great culture and great humanity. Never give up on this legacy. You are descendants of the great Mother Russia, step forward with it. And thank you – thank you for your way of being, for your way of being Russian.”

    Such expressions echo the narratives of the Kremlin’s chauvinistic policy, which Moscow employs to justify its aggression against our country. Let us recall that their desire and delusion of “great Russia” was the main reason behind the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Therefore, the words of the head of the Vatican were received extremely positively in Moscow.

    However, the Vatican itself is once again trying to explain what their leader really wanted to say. Thus, the press secretary of the Vatican, Matteo Bruni, said Francis simply intended to praise the positive aspects of the spiritual and cultural history of Russia when he praised the Russian emperors Peter and Catherine II.

    However, given the history, it is difficult to refer to the selected examples as anything related to culture and spirit. After all, their rule was branded as aggressive and despotic, and those leaders lived an immoral lifestyle. They also pursued a purposeful policy of destroying everything Ukrainian.

    The so-called “Window to Europe,” the city of St. Petersburg, which was built by Peter I, emerged on the bones of thousands of Ukrainians, who were forced to erect fortresses and dig canals. Historians note that 104 versts of the Ladoga Canal were densely littered with the bodies of several tens of thousands of Ukrainian Cossacks. He also initiated the infamous Baturyn massacre, where, according to various estimates, more than 14,000 Baturyn residents, including women and children, were killed. In addition, under Peter, many prominent Ukrainians, scholars, and church hierarchs were forcibly deported to Russia. Publishing books in the Ukrainian language was prohibited and Ukrainian texts were removed from church books.

    Catherine II was infamous for the same methods, sometimes even more cruel ones. It was she who destroyed the Zaporizhzhya Sich, legally introduced serfdom, and forcibly annexed Ukrainian lands to Russia. Crimean Tatars were also evicted under her reign, and a policy aimed at the liquidation of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church was launched. In addition, she carried out the secularization of church lands, which undermined the economic independence of the Orthodox Church from the state, in particular, in Ukraine. As a result, the Church turned into a part of the imperial state apparatus.

    Such methods of rule inspire today’s Kremlin bosses. However, they cannot be role models to follow in the 21st century. After all, they go beyond humanism and openly violate the principles of democracy and ethical Christian norms. Therefore, such a careless use and call for imitation of the specified historical characters can be dangerous and become the cause of an even more aggressive war.

    Therefore, such statements by the Pope caused a great wave of indignation in Ukraine. Currently, the Greek-Catholic and Catholic Churches in Ukraine issued relevant statements in which they expressed their regret about such messages from the Pope, and once again reiterated their support for Ukraine. In particular, the head of the UGCC, Sviatoslav, recalled that Francis had always condemned any form of imperialism, and even called extreme nationalism the cause of the “fragmentary Third World War.” Therefore, according to His Beatitude Sviatoslav, the last words of the pontiff contradict what he’s always preached.

    So let’s hope that the Pope really made a mistake. In order not to make similar mistakes in the future, Francis himself should only come to Ukraine to see with his own eyes what the imitation of the “great-power” policy of Peter and Catherine led to in Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol, and other cities across Ukraine in which the descendants of obsessed Russian autocrats set their foot. At the same time, such a visit would finally confirm the true position of the Pope regarding Ukraine, and would show the whole world whose side he is on – Ukraine or the Kremlin’s.