“Blasphemy and betrayal of God”, this is how Pope Francis blasted the “armed aggression” of Ukraine on Wednesday.
The leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics did not explicitly name Russia or Ukraine, but his remarks clearly referenced the ongoing conflict between Kiev and Moscow.
“The weapons of the Gospel are prayer, tenderness, forgiveness and freely-given love for one’s neighbor, to any neighbor. This is how God’s peace is brought into the world,” Francis said during his weekly audience.
“This is why the armed aggression of these days, like every war, represents an outrage against God, a blasphemous betrayal of the Lord of Passover, a preference for the face of the false god of this world over his meek one,” he added.
During the course of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Francis has repeatedly condemned war and called out for peace, but has shied away from directly criticizing Moscow and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
According to observers, this is partly because the Vatican wants to avoid overtly taking sides in the hope it could play a mediation role, and partly because Pope Francis does not want to cause a crisis in delicate Vatican relations with the Russian Orthodox Church, whose leader Patriarch Kirill is a staunch supporter of the war, which began on Feb. 24.