Published On: Mon, Mar 11th, 2024

POLL: Was Pope right to tell Ukraine to wave the ‘white flag’ and negotiate with Putin? | World | News

Pope Francis sparked outrage in Ukraine after being asked to delve into the ongoing debate between those arguing the war-torn nation should continue its fight against Russian invaders and others backing a settlement between Kyiv and Moscow.

During the interview, carried out by Swiss broadcaster RSI in February and set for broadcast on March 20 as part of a cultural programme, the pope was asked by his interviewer: “In Ukraine, some call for the courage of surrender, of the white flag. But others say that this would legitimise the stronger party. What do you think?”

In his reply, the Pope picked up the figure of speech of the white flag and said: “That is one interpretation. But I believe that the stronger one is the one who sees the situation, who thinks of the people, who has the courage of the white flag, to negotiate.

“And today, negotiations are possible with the help of international powers. The word ‘negotiate’ is a courageous word. When you see that you are defeated, that things are not going well, it is necessary to have the courage to negotiate.

“You may feel ashamed, but with how many deaths will it end? Negotiate in time; look for some country that can mediate.”

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During his nightly address on Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky didn’t mention the Pope but seemingly hit out at his words, when he praised the work of Ukrainian chaplains on the frontline.

He said: “They are on the frontline, protecting life and humanity, supporting with prayer, conversation, and deeds.

“This is what the church is – it is together with people, not two-and-a-half thousand kilometres away somewhere, virtually mediating between someone who wants to live and someone who wants to destroy you.”

A few hours prior, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba also seemingly took a swipe at the head of the Church, referring to Pope Francis’s mention of waving the “white flag”.

He wrote in a social media post: “Our flag is a yellow and blue one. This is the flag by which we live, die, and prevail. We shall never raise any other flags.”

Other Ukrainians, including the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Sviatoslav Shevchuk, have voiced their criticism against the Pope’s remarks.

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski also sided with Kyiv, and in a post on X said: “How about we encourage Putin to have the courage to withdraw his army from Ukraine for balance? Peace would immediately come without the need for negotiations.”

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni tried to quash the criticism, saying: [The Pope] uses the term white flag, and responds by picking up the image proposed by the interviewer, to indicate a cessation of hostilities, a truce reached with the courage of negotiation.

“Elsewhere in the interview, speaking of another situation of conflict, but referring to every situation of war, the Pope clearly stated: ‘Negotiations are never a surrender’.”

Mr Bruni also noted the Pope has always described Ukraine as “martyred” and expressed his views and hopes for Ukraine on February 25, upon marking the second anniversary of the war during a service held in the Vatican’s St Peter’s Square.

On that occasion, the Pope spoke about his “deep affection” for the Ukrainian people and invited all parties to “create the conditions for a diplomatic solution in search of a just and lasting peace”.

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