In Malta today, Pope Francis again heightened his rhetoric about the war in Ukraine. Condemning in no uncertain terms the brutal and now over month-long invasion by Russia, he said:
Yet from the east of Europe, from the land of sunrise, the dark shadows of war have now spread. We had thought that invasions of other countries, savage street fighting and atomic threats were grim memories of a distant past. However, the icy winds of war, which bring only death, destruction and hatred in their wake, have swept down powerfully upon the lives of many people and affected us all. Once again, some potentate, sadly caught up in anachronistic claims of nationalist interests, is provoking and fomenting conflicts, whereas ordinary people sense the need to build a future that, will either shared, or not be at all. Now in the night of the war that is fallen upon humanity, please, let us not allow the dream of peace to fade!
Reporting in the Los Angeles Times among other outlets characterized Francis’s latest statements as “a forceful condemnation clearly directed at Putin,” and suggested that “the new comments left no room for doubt over where Francis placed the blame for the brutal onslaught.”
Writing for Vatican News, Andrea Tornielli expressed the trajectory of Francis’s vision of peace which he articulated in Malta today:
This is why the Successor of Peter called the madness of the arms race, and why he invites us to enter into a different, new mindset: a logic of peace, a peace that is not based on fear and deterrence, but on justice, dialogue, and a new system of international relations.
How sad it is to see that enthusiasm for peace, which arose after the Second World War, has faded in recent decades. It is not with overflowing arsenals, nor with extremely powerful and destructive weapons, that a future of peaceful coexistence can be built.
On the topic of Francis’s interventions in the peacemaking process, WPI Contributor Adam Rasmussen is quoted in this piece examining his much-discussed recent comment to Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill that “wars are always unjust”:
Adam Rasmussen, a theologian teaching at Georgetown University, agrees that just-war theory is “still valid” and that Fratelli Tutti develops the teaching “by restricting the criterion of ‘just cause’ so that self-defense is considered the only acceptable just cause today.”
In fact, he points out that Pope Francis’ language simply echoes what his predecessors have already said, such as St. John Paul II’s 2003 teaching that war is not always inevitable, “but is always a defeat for humanity,” and St. Paul VI’s emphatic message of “War never again!” delivered to the United Nations in 1965.
Adam also contextualized Francis’s explicit comments about just war alongside his other statements and public actions since the Russian invasion began:
Rasmussen told the Register that Pope Francis’ teaching is reflected in his actions and words regarding the war in Ukraine. The Pope has repeatedly condemned Russia’s unjust aggression, while also avoiding directly calling out the country or Vladimir Putin, a practice consistent with the Holy See’s long-standing preference for avoiding escalation and keeping backdoors of diplomacy open. Pope Francis has also expressed approval of Ukrainian defenders, called for peace negotiations and an immediate end to hostilities, and, in union with all the bishops of the world, consecrated Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
“So his position is completely focused on peace,” the theologian explained.
If you’ve been hearing some rumblings in the media that Francis has hesitated to condemn Russian aggression, you will want to read the rest by Jonathan Liedl in the National Catholic Register.
Image: Pope Francis arrives in Malta, April 2, 2022. Vatican News.
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Rachel Amiri serves as Production Editor for Where Peter Is and has also appeared as the host of WPI Live. She is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame with degrees in Theology and Political Science, and was deeply shaped by the thought of Pope Benedict XVI. She has worked in Catholic publishing as well as in healthcare as a FertilityCare Practitioner. Rachel is married to fellow WPI Contributor Daniel Amiri and resides in St. Louis, Missouri, where they are raising three children.