Ukraine has accused Pope Francis of spreading the same “imperialist propaganda” that the Kremlin ‘uses to justify the killing of thousands of Ukrainians’.
It comes after the worldwide head of the Catholic Church reportedly told Russian youths to remember that they are the heirs of the “the great Russian empire” created by tsars such as Peter the Great. President Vladimir Putin has used similar rhetoric to justify the invasion of Ukraine.
The Pope appears to have made the comments in a live video address to Catholic youths gathered in St Petersburg. The supreme pontiff, who was born in Argentina, was reading a prepared speech in his native Spanish tongue.
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However, as the speech ended, videos shared by religious websites show the pope switch to Italian and ad-lib a new ending, which said Russia’s youngsters were the heirs of “the great Russian empire” of the past. The Vatican released the text of the address on Saturday – but did not include the Pope’s last paragraph about “the great mother Russia”.
The videos online show the Pope saying: “Don’t forget (your) 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.”
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The comments have been condemned by Ukraine. On Facebook,Oleg Nikolenko – a spokesperson for the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry – said: “It is by such imperialistic propaganda, ‘spiritual staples’ and ” the need to rescue ‘the great mother of Russia’ the Kremlin justifies the killing of thousands of Ukrainians and Ukrainian women and the destruction of hundreds of Ukrainian cities and villages.
“It is very unfortunate that Russian grand-state ideas, which, in fact, are the cause of Russia’s chronic aggression, knowingly or unknowingly, come from the Pope’s mouth, whose mission, in our understanding, is precisely to open the eyes of Russian youth to the disastrous course of the current Russian leadership.”
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