Pope Francis says visit to Kyiv is ‘on the table’ and implicitly criticizes Putin | Pope Francis


Pope Francis said he planned to visit Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and implicitly criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin over the invasion of Ukraine.

The head of the Catholic Church was invited by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and the city’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, along with Ukrainian religious leaders on March 8.

At the time of the invitation, the Vatican had confirmed receipt of a letter and said the pope was praying for Ukrainians, but made no mention of travel plans.

But questioned on Saturday by a journalist on the plane which took him from Rome to Malta if he was considering the invitation, François replied: “Yes, it is on the table”. He gave no further details.

Later, in a hard-hitting address at the island’s presidential palace, the pope said: “From eastern Europe, from the land of the sunrise, the dark shadows of war have now spread. We thought invasions from other countries, savage street fights and atomic threats were dark memories of the distant past.

“However, the icy winds of war, which bring only death, destruction and hatred in their wake, have powerfully swept away the lives of many and affected us all.

“Once again, a potentate, alas caught up in anachronistic claims of nationalist interests, is provoking and fomenting conflict, while ordinary people feel the need to build a future that will either be shared or not at all,” he said. he said, bluntly. mentioning Putin by name.

The invitation of Ukrainian political leaders was supported by Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Byzantine Rite Catholic Church of Ukraine and Ukrainian Ambassador to the Vatican Andriy Yurash.

Francis has previously described Vladimir Putin’s war as “unwarranted aggression” and denounced “atrocities”, but was careful not to mention Russian culpability in the war.

On Thursday, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola met Zelenskiy in Kyiv to convey the message that the EU would help rebuild the country after the war.

However, the most publicized visit to date was made by the Prime Ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia on March 16. At a press conference after the meeting, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala told Ukrainians: “Europe is on your side.”

Pope Francis, 85, was visiting Malta on Saturday for a two-day trip in a bid to draw attention to a migration crisis exacerbated by war in Ukraine.

After landing, he uses an elevator for the first time to get off the ITA plane onto the tarmac. He was also sitting in his popemobile during a tour of the island’s capital, Valletta. Francis has been suffering from painful knee inflammation for months.

More than 10.5 million people have been displaced within Ukraine or abroad as refugees, totaling about a quarter of the country’s population. It is estimated that around 13 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance across the country.

Metsola met Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki with Ukrainian refugees on Saturday morning at the Otwock School in Warsaw.

She said: “We are impressed by the efforts made by Poland, its communities and its citizens. You have given those in need a safe and secure space. It’s heartwarming to see it – it’s the best in Europe.

“However, Poland bears the brunt of the consequences of the war outside of Ukraine. Therefore, we need more support for Poland and other countries hosting and taking in people fleeing war. in Ukraine.

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