Pope tacitly criticizes Putin over invasion, considers Kyiv trip

  • Francis begins a two-day visit to Malta
  • Outbreak of knee pain forces him to use cargo lift on the plane
  • About Ukraine, some say “stuck in outdated claims”
  • He denounces corruption in Malta and defends immigrants

VALLETTA (Reuters) – Pope Francis said on Saturday he was considering a visit to Kyiv, implicitly criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin over the invasion of Ukraine, saying the “ruler” was stirring up conflict for national interests.

Francis made the remarks, first to reporters on the plane that took him to Malta for a two-day visit, and then in a strongly worded speech at the island’s presidential palace that left no doubts about who he was referring to.

“From Eastern Europe, from the land of the rising sun, the dark shadows of war have now spread. We thought that the conquests of other countries, the brutal street fighting and atomic threats were horrific memories of a distant past,” the Pope said. .

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Moscow denies targeting civilians in the operation it launched on February 24, describing it as a “special military operation” that aims not to occupy lands, but to disarm and “discredit” its neighbor. Francis has already rejected this term, calling it war.

“Nevertheless, the icy winds of war, which have brought nothing but death, destruction and hatred in their wake, have forcefully swept the lives of so many people and affected us all,” Francis said.

“Again, there are some power holders, sadly trapped in outdated claims to national interests, stirring up and inflaming conflicts, while ordinary people feel the need to build a future that is either shared or not shared at all,” he said, without mentioning Putin by name. .

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Francis’ voice was strong, but he sat down to give his speech. Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said that for the first time on 36 trips abroad, a bout of knee pain forced him to use a freight crane to board the plane in Rome and disembark in Valletta – to avoid “unnecessary fatigue”. .

The pope, limping as he walked through the presidential palace of the predominantly Catholic island, had already strongly condemned what he called “unjustified aggression” and denounced “atrocities” in the war.

war night

But he only referred to Russia directly in prayer, as he did during a special global event for peace on March 25.

“Now in the night of the war that has fallen upon mankind, let us not let the dream of peace vanish,” he said at the palace.

He again criticized the arms industry and expressed concern about the waning enthusiasm for peace that emerged after World War II, saying that the conflict of interests and ideologies “has reappeared powerfully in the temptations of tyranny, new forms of imperialism (and) large-scale aggressiveness…”

Earlier, when a reporter on the flight asked him if he was considering an invitation to visit Kyiv, the Pope replied: “Yes, it is on the table.” He did not give enough details.

Francis was invited by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, Archbishop Svyatoslav Shevchuk of the Byzantine Catholic Church of Ukraine, and Ukraine’s ambassador to the Vatican, Andrey Yurash.

He spoke on the phone with Zelensky and Shevchuk.

Francis also condemned corruption in Malta, where allegations of financial wrongdoing and nepotism have dominated the political narrative for much of the past decade.

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“We hope that you will always cultivate legitimacy and transparency, which will enable you to eradicate corruption and criminality,” he said.

Malta has for years been on the front line of Europe’s migration crisis, with thousands of North African migrants arriving to try to make their way to the mainland.

In an apparent reference to some European Union countries sending migrants rescued at sea to Libya, Francis denounced “vile agreements with criminals who enslave other human beings.”

In the past, Francis has compared conditions in immigration detention centers in Libya to Nazi and Soviet camps. Read more

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Additional reporting by Chris Sciclona. Editing by Alison Williams, Kirsten Donovan and Frances Kerry

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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