The war in Ukraine drags on. President V. Zelenskyy of Ukraine is still pleading for more help from the West. He is also, understandably, concerned that the people of the West have forgotten about the Russian attack on his peaceful country. He was a star in the media in Ukraine, so he knows how fast the news cycles can be, especially about a topic that lingers or is far off. The horrors perpetrated by Russia has been lushed off the headlines and front pages. The topics of abortion, guns, and supply shortages take up the attention of the world. The passion for the Ukraine is, seemingly waning. This is reflected even in recent controversial remarks made by Pope Francis.
As is well reported and documented, the Pope offered his opinion on the war. In an interview with the Jesuit magazine La Civiltà Cattolica, the pontiff condemned the “ferocity and cruelty of the Russian troops” while warning against what he said was a fairytale perception of the conflict as good versus evil. “We need to move away from the usual Little Red Riding Hood pattern, in that Little Red Riding Hood was good and the wolf was the bad one,” he said. “Something global is emerging and the elements are very much entwined.” Pope Francis has said Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine was “perhaps somehow provoked” as he recalled a conversation in the run-up to the war in which he was warned Nato was “barking at the gates of Russia”. He added, “they don’t understand that the Russians are imperial and can’t have any foreign power getting close to them. . . We do not see the whole drama unfolding behind this war, which was, perhaps, somehow either provoked or not prevented.” The Pope said he was not “pro-Putin” and that it would be “simplistic and wrong to say such a thing”. He also said Russia had “miscalculated” the war. “It is also true that the Russians thought it would all be over in a week. They encountered a brave people, a people who are struggling to survive and who have a history of struggle.” The Pontiff published a message saying the invasion of Ukraine was a violation of a country’s right to self-determination.
Francis made similar remarks in May, when he told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that he had "no way of telling whether [Russian President Vladimir Putin's] rage has been provoked, but I suspect it was maybe facilitated by the West's attitude." He also implicitly blamed Putin during an April speech in the Maltese capital of Valletta, when he decried "the icy winds of war" in Europe and said, "some potentate, sadly caught up in anachronistic claims of nationalist interests, is provoking and fomenting conflicts. Francis has repeatedly condemned the war in Ukraine, calling it "abominable," "macabre," a "massacre" and "unacceptable armed aggression."
This is the ambiguous view of which Zelenskyy is afraid. Pope Francis seems to be on both sides of the conflict, acting much like a politician who wants to wait to see in which way the power will fall before committing to a definite statement. According to the Vatican, his motivation to try to walk such a fine line is likely rooted in the Vatican's historical stance of maintaining an open dialogue with all sides in global conflicts, so it can help mediate for peace. "I am simply against reducing complexity to the distinction between good guys and bad guys without reasoning about roots and interests, which are very complex," he said. "While we see the ferocity, the cruelty of Russian troops, we must not forget the real problems if we want them to be solved. . . I would really like to emphasize this point: The heroism of the Ukrainian people. What is before our eyes is a situation of world war, global interests, arms sales and geopolitical appropriation, which is martyring a heroic people," he said.
While Pope Francis is attempting to be a mediator of sorts and President Biden moves from one policy crisis to another, President Zelenskyy is trying to save his country. We can help, pray for the conversion of Russia, starting with the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill who supports the war, to fulfill the words of Mary. Mary and her prayers are more powerful than any words of politicians or any instrument of war.