Vatican backtracks on Pope’s remarks criticised for glorifying Russian imperialism

29.08.2023, 13:39
Vatican backtracks on Pope’s remarks criticised for glorifying Russian imperialism - Photo
Pope Francis. Photo: EPA

The Vatican on Tuesday said on Tuesday Pope Francis’ remarks to Russian catholic youths, which sparked a controversy over their apparent extolling of Russian tsars, were not meant to glorify Russian imperialism.

In an address last Friday, Francis made an impromptu remark in Italian at the end, asking the Russian audience not to forget their "heredity".

"You are heirs of the great Russia – the great Russia of the saints, of kings, the great Russia of Peter the Great, of Catherine II, the great Russian empire, cultured, so much culture, so much humanity. You are the heirs of the great mother Russia. Go forward," the Pope said.

The two tsars, both referred to as ‘the great’ by historians, expanded Russia into a huge empire in the 17th and 18th centuries, including conquering parts of Ukraine. Russian president Vladimir Putin invokes their legacies in justifying his invasion and annexation of Ukrainian territory last year.

While the Vatican did not publish this part of Francis’ address, it was circulated in Catholic media, leading to the Pope being accused of glorifying Russian imperialism.

"It is precisely with such imperialist propaganda, the 'spiritual ties' and the 'need' to save 'great mother Russia' that the Kremlin justifies the killing of thousands of Ukrainians and the destruction of Ukrainian cities and villages," Oleg Nikolenko, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian foreign ministry, said in a statement.

In a statement to the media published on Tuesday, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said that the pope only "intended to encourage young people to preserve and promote all that is positive in the great Russian cultural and spiritual heritage."

He "certainly" did not mean to "exalt imperialist logic and government personalities, which he mentioned to indicate some historical periods of reference," Mr Bruni was quoted as saying.

Pope Francis has been an outspoken critic of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but has occasionally angered Kyiv for unscripted remarks perceived as supporting Moscow's narrative, Reuters reports.

If you notice a spelling error, select it with the mouse and press Ctrl+Enter.


Latest news