Statement from the Pope about the expression that provoked the reaction of Ukraine

Pope Francis, the spiritual leader of the Catholics, made a statement about the phrase “Great Russia”, which drew the reaction of Ukraine. Pope Francis said he was using the expression in a cultural, not geographical, sense.

Release: 21:45 – 04 September 2023 Updated:

Statement from the Pope about the expression that provoked the reaction of Ukraine

Pope Francis on Friday last week at St. He participated in the 10th Russian Catholic Youth Congress held in St. Petersburg via video conference.

In his speech here, the Pope used the following expressions, which drew the reaction of Ukraine:

“Don’t forget your legacy. You are the great saints, the great Russia of the rulers, Peter I, II. You are descendants of Catherine’s great Russia, that empire of education, great culture, and great humanity.”


The first reaction to the Pope was Mikhail Podolyak, Advisor to the Office of the President of Ukraine. Stating that the names mentioned by the Pope are used by Russia to keep the motivation of the soldiers at the front high, Podolyak said, “The Pope glorifies them, while Putin uses them to destroy our identity. If we consider the words of the Pope with an open mind, we will see that this is unconditional support for aggressive imperialism. It’s a tribute to the bloody idea of ​​the ‘Russian world’ that destroys the freedoms and lifestyles of others.”


Oleg Nikolenko, spokesperson of the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said: “It is very unfortunate that the ideas of the ‘supreme state’, which are the cause of Russia’s chronic aggression, came out of the Pope’s mouth knowingly or unknowingly.”

These words, which were criticized by Kiev, were asked to the Pope by journalists on the plane on the return trip from Ulan Bator to Rome after his 4-day visit to Mongolia.

Pope Francis said he used the term “Greater Russia” in a cultural sense, not a geographical one.

Recalling that he said, as usual, “Take care of your legacy” during a conversation with a group of young Russians, the Pope said, “I always repeat: Let them take responsibility for their legacy. I mentioned the idea of ​​’Greater Russia’ when explaining that I mean inheritance. Because the Russian heritage is very good and very beautiful. Think of literature and music going back to (Fyodor) Dostoevsky, who tells us about mature humanism. As a third point, maybe it wasn’t appropriate. Speaking of ‘Greater Russia in a cultural, not geographical sense, I remembered what we were taught in school: Peter I, Catherine II. Maybe that wasn’t quite true. I don’t know, let the historians tell.”


On the other hand, Pope Francis stated that the idea of ​​traveling to Mongolia stemmed from his desire to visit the small number of Catholic communities there and said, “For me, this trip was to get to know the people of Mongolia and to have a dialogue with them, to get to know their culture, to accompany them on their journey to the Church with great respect for them and their culture. I am happy with the result,” he said.


Reminding that the Chinese administration did not allow the Catholic bishops in China to accompany him during his visit to neighboring Mongolia, he sent a “warm greeting” to China and asked the Catholics in this country to be “good citizens”, the Pope said:

“Relations with China are extremely respectful. Personally, I have a great admiration for the Chinese people, the channels are very clear, there is a commission that has been working with the Chinese government and the Vatican for some time on the appointment of bishops. I think we need to move forward religiously so that we understand each other better and that Chinese citizens do not think that the Church does not accept their culture and values ​​and that the Church is dependent on another foreign power. This friendly path is also well followed by the Commission chaired by Cardinal (Pietro) Parolin. They are doing a good job, relations are improving on the Chinese side as well. I have great respect for the Chinese people.”


Asked whether he would go to Vietnam, Pope Francis stated that there is mutual sympathy in his dialogues with Vietnam and that a Pope will certainly visit this country.

“Both sides were well-intentioned in understanding each other and looking for ways to move forward. There have been problems, but I think they will be overcome sooner or later in Vietnam. As for the Vietnam trip, if I don’t go, (with a hypothetical example) 24th John will definitely go. It will definitely be a visit, because it is a country that deserves progress and that I sympathize with.”

Asked what other trips he plans to take, Pope Francis, 86, said: “There is Marseille, then there is a small country in Europe. We’re seeing if we can do that. To tell the truth, going on a journey for me is no longer as easy as it was in the early days. There are restrictions on my walking, which limits me, but we will see.”

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