The Holy See said Pope Francis’ recent comments on a car bombing that killed the daughter of an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin should not be interpreted as a “political stance.”
In a statement released Aug. 30, the Vatican also called the Russia-Ukraine conflict a “large-scale war in Ukraine, initiated by the Russian Federation.”
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, some of Pope Francis’ comments have come under criticism, including a statement he made in an interview in June that Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine was “perhaps somehow provoked.”
He was also rebuked by Ukraine’s Vatican Ambassador last week for his characterization of the Aug. 20 death of Darya Dugina, a 29-year-old journalist and political commentator known for her support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Dugina was the daughter of Aleksandr Dugin, a Russian political thinker believed to be close to Putin.
The Holy See’s unsigned communication said Pope Francis has made “numerous speeches” on the Ukraine War “mostly aimed at inviting pastors and the faithful to prayer, and all people of goodwill to solidarity and efforts to rebuild peace.”
“It is reiterated that the Holy Father’s words on this tragic issue should be read as a voice raised in defense of human life and the values attached to it, and not as taking a political stance,” the Holy See said.
The Vatican’s statement appeared to refer in part to criticism over Pope Francis’ Aug. 24 appeal for an end to the war in Ukraine, in which he referenced Dugina’s death.
“I think of that poor girl blown up by a bomb under her car seat in Moscow. The innocent pay for war, the innocent! Let us think about this reality and say to each other: war is madness,” Francis said at the end of his general audience.
Ukraine’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Andrii Yurash, criticized Francis’ remarks on Twitter, writing that the speech “was disappointing” and conflated the categories of “aggressor and victim.”
The Holy See’s statement said, “on more than one occasion, as well as in recent days, public discussions have arisen on the political significance to be attached to [Pope Francis’] speeches” on the war in Ukraine.
“As for the large-scale war in Ukraine, initiated by the Russian Federation, Holy Father Francis’ speeches are clear and unambiguous in condemning it as morally unjust, unacceptable, barbaric, senseless, repugnant, and sacrilegious,” the statement continued.
Pope Francis’ most recent mention of Ukraine was during his Aug. 28 trip to the central Italian town of L’Aquila.
After leading the Angelus, he said: “Let us pray for the people of Ukraine and for all those who suffer because of war. May the God of peace revive a human and Christian sense of pity and mercy in the hearts of the leaders of nations. Mary, Mother of Mercy and Queen of Peace, pray for us.”
Vatican: Pope Francis’ remarks on Russian car bomb victim were not a political affirmation
Pope Francis’ comments on the death of Darya Dugina, a 29-year-old commentator with a nationalist Russian TV channel, were meant to defend life and were not a political affirmation, the Vatican said.
“It must be reiterated that the Holy Father’s words on this tragic issue should be read as a voice raised in defense of human life and the values attached to it, and not as a stance on political positions,” the Vatican said in a statement published Aug. 30.
“As for the large-scale war in Ukraine initiated by the Russian Federation, Pope Francis’ interventions are clear and unequivocal in condemning it as morally unjust, unacceptable, barbaric, senseless, repugnant and sacrilegious,” the Vatican added.
The pope’s statements “are mostly aimed at inviting pastors and the faithful to prayer, and all people of good will to solidarity and efforts to rebuild peace.”
The Vatican said the pope’s numerous statements calling for an end to the war in Ukraine “are mostly aimed at inviting pastors and the faithful to prayer, and all people of good will to solidarity and efforts to rebuild peace.”
Nevertheless, the Vatican said that although Pope Francis’ words are meant to promote peace, “public discussions have arisen about the political significance attached to such interventions.”
At the end of his general audience talk in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican Aug. 24, Pope Francis repeated his calls for peace and spoke of how so many people were affected by war.
After the Vatican’s affirmation of Russia’s aggression, “nobody in the Holy See and around the world can have any doubts about who initiated this terrible war.”
As an example, the pope spoke of “that poor girl flown into the air because of a bomb under her car seat in Moscow. The innocent pay for war. The innocent.”
While the pope did not identify the person by name, Vatican News confirmed the pope was referring to the Aug. 20 killing of Dugina. She served as press secretary for her father, Alexander Dugin—an anti-communist, ultranationalist philosopher calling for Russia to reclaim its former territories.
The pope’s comments on Dugina’s death drew criticism from Ukrainian officials, including Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who summoned Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, apostolic nuncio to Ukraine, to express his disappointment.
“I am really happy that the Holy See reacted on Ukraine’s position.”
In an Aug. 25 briefing, Kuleba told journalists that summoning a nuncio to the ministry was unprecedented.
“I will say frankly that the Ukrainian heart is torn by the pope’s words. It was unfair,” Kuleba added.
Andrii Yurash, Ukraine’s ambassador to the Holy See, told Catholic News Service Aug. 30 that he was happy that the Vatican’s statement was “not just a general statement” but “a concrete answer to a concrete question.”
The statement, he added, was clear in saying that both countries are not equals in the conflict “because Ukraine is defending all of its territory and is doing everything possible to free already-occupied territories.”
“I am really happy that the Holy See reacted on Ukraine’s position” regarding the pope’s comments, Yurash told CNS. “Surely, we will inform our government as quickly as possible (about the Vatican’s statement), and I hope the government’s reaction will also be very quick.”
He also said that after the Vatican’s affirmation of Russia’s aggression, “nobody in the Holy See and around the world can have any doubts about who initiated this terrible war.”
Yurash told CNS that although there are no updates regarding a possible papal visit to Kyiv, he hoped that after today’s statement, those responsible of approving the visit “can make a positive and quick response.”