Vatican says Pope Francis did not intend to glorify imperialism in controversial remarks to Russians

Pope Francis did not intend to glorify imperialism in his recent remarks to young Russian Catholics, the Vatican said on Tuesday, following criticism from Ukraine.

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The pope told young Russians on Friday: „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.”

His words sparked controversy and were met with anger in Ukraine, news agencies reported.

Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of Ukraine’s Eastern Rite Catholic Church, which is loyal to the pope, said in a statement that the pontiff’s words had caused „great pain and worry,” the Reuters news agency reported.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement on Tuesday that the pope „intended to encourage young people to preserve and promote all that is positive in the great Russian cultural and spiritual heritage, and certainly not to exalt imperialist logic and government personalities.”

The two monarchs mentioned by Francis, Peter I and Catherine II, expanded Russia into a huge empire in the 17th and 18th centuries, including conquering parts of Ukraine, Reuters reported.

Russian President Vladimir Putin invoked their legacies in justifying his invasion and annexation of Ukrainian territory last year, according to Reuters.

Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau said in a speech to parliament earlier this year that Russia’s  „imperial ambitions” and aggressive policies posed the greatest threat to peace in Europe.

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, launching the largest military campaign in Europe since World War II.

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Source: IAR, PAP, Reuters

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