Pope Francis told an Italian newspaper that NATO may be partially to blame for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying the alliance encroached on Russia’s borders. The Pope also expressed his desire to travel to Moscow in order to meet with Vladimir Putin and hopefully broker a peace.
“Maybe it was NATO barking at Russia’s gate that compelled Putin to unleash the invasion of Ukraine,” Francis speculated in an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera. “You cannot think that a free state can wage war on another free state…In Ukraine, it seems that it was others who created the conflict.”
The Holy Father has also criticized the large number of weapons shipments that continue to flow to Ukraine, further speculating that this could merely be prolonging the conflict and subsequent suffering.
“What seems indisputable is that in that country both sides are trying out new weapons. The Russians have just found out that tanks are useless and they might be developing new weapons,” Francis said. “Wars are fought for this reason too: to test your arsenals. This is what happened in the Spanish Civil War, before the Second World War. The production and the sale of armaments is a disgrace, but few are bold enough to stand up against it.”
Francis went on to reiterate his desire to meet with Vladimir Putin in Russia. The Pope has spoken with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on at least two occasions, but says Putin has yet to return his calls.
Papal surrogates have visited Kiev three times and have been invited for a fourth visit, but Francis believes he should visit Moscow before this happens. “First, I must go to Moscow, I want to meet Putin first of all,” Pope Francis said of Russia. “But it in the end I am just a priest, what can I possibly achieve? I’ll do what I can.”
The Pope has also reached out to Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, in hopes of brokering a peace. He worries that Kirill is acting as “Putin’s altar boy” and implored him to call for peace. “I spoke with Kirill for forty minutes on Zoom. For the first twenty minutes, he read from a piece of paper he was holding in his hand all the reasons that justify the Russian invasion,” Francis told the Italian paper. I listened to him and then replied: ‘I don’t understand any of this. Brother, we are not state clerics, we shouldn’t speak the language of politics, but rather the language of Jesus.’”
The Pope is holding out hope that Russia will accept his invite and allow him to travel to Moscow.