Written by Andrey Yashlavsky
Translated by Elizaveta Ovchinnikova
10 May 2022. MK.RU
What Pope Francis’ words about NATO ‘barking at the gates of Russia’ hide
Pope Francis spoke recently about the situation in Ukraine. But he spoke somewhat vaguely. Only one thing is clear – he condemns the very fact of the conflict, the death of people and supports the earliest establishment of peace. President of the All-Russian public organisation ‘International Police Association Russian Section’, Doctor of Law, Honoured Lawyer of Russia, Lieutenant General Yury Zhdanov explained what the head of the Roman Catholic Church really wanted to convey to people.
- Yury Nikolaevich, where, when and what did the Pontiff say?
- He gave an interview to the Italian newspaper ‘Corriere della Sera’ on 3 May 2022. In the interview, Pope Francis told how hard it is for him to talk about what is happening in the heart of Europe. It was about the armed conflict in Ukraine. He spoke about his efforts towards the peace process, which he is undertaking together with his Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Holy See – Secretary of State of the Vatican – Pietro Parolin. He complained that he has not yet managed to obtain a minimum – least a temporary ceasefire. They say he called both Zelensky and Putin, communicated with Patriarch Kirill, even expressed his willingness to come to Moscow. He fears, however, that Putin ‘cannot or does not want to agree to our meeting at the moment’.
- It looks like ‘duty’ peacemaking. For a tick somehow. I don’t remember if the Vatican tried to influence the Minsk process. Maybe something happened?
- That’s where you’re wrong. The Holy See never does anything ‘for a tick.’ It maintains close oversight over all world processes and tries to influence them. Of course, in its favour. But it does not always interfere in them explicitly and actively. And in this case – yes, I agree with you – something happened. Most likely, the Special Military Operation in Ukraine conducted by Russia did not go as expected in the Vatican. There was apparently a threat to the positions of the Catholic Church. The Vatican considered that Catholics – there are 1.5 billion of them in the world – will not understand if the Pope does not speak out about the current situation. The Vatican simply cannot afford to lose or at least weaken its influence on its parish.
- Apparently, Catholics have begun to understand that they are about to be dragged into an unnecessary but large-scale and suicidal massacre?
- Yes, and Catholics need to understand exactly clearly whether they need it. And if necessary, get the blessing of Vicar of Christ on Earth.
- Well, is the Pope ready to bless?
- I hope he’s not. He launched into a lengthy discussion with notes of exhortation. But who is he exhorting? So, he talks about the roots of the conflict, doubts the need for arms supplies to Ukraine. He contemplates how to treat the massive supply of weapons to Ukraine from Western nations. This is the argument, he believes, that is likely to split asunder the world of Catholics and pacifists. Pope Francis claims that he has always rejected the arms race and strongly condemned any escalation in the production of weapons because they can cause unspeakable horror and suffering, And today there are weapon deliveries from Western countries to the ‘Ukrainian resistance’.
- It turns out that the Pope is against Western arms deliveries to Ukraine, isn’t it?
- No one understands this! And he’s one of them. ‘I can’t answer that question, I live too far away, I don’t know if it is the right thing to supply the Ukrainian fighters,’ he reflects in an interview.
And here is another revealing quote: ‘What seems indisputable is that in that country [Ukraine] both sides are trying out new weapons. The Pope believes that wars are fought for this reason too: to test your arsenals. This is what happened in the Spanish Civil War, before the Second World War. The production and the sale of armaments is a disgrace, but few are bold enough to stand up against it. He also thinks that the conflict in Ukraine was triggered by other actors. The only thing Ukrainians can be blamed for, Francis claims, is that they succumbed to these external forces and reacted harshly to the situation in Donbass. So it’s really hard to understand his point.
- However, for some reason it seems to me that Pope Francis, after all, considers the West to be the culprit of the conflict as well. According to him, he doesn’t exclude that ‘NATO barking at Russia’s gate’ provoked the Russian leadership to a conflict. He called NATO’s behaviour ‘barking’. Isn’t this an expression of one’s position?
- So you too were buying into this mention of barking. What makes you think that the word ‘bark’ in this context carries a negative connotation?
- Well, dogs bark…
- What’s wrong with dogs? They not only bark but also sniff out enemies and tear them with their fangs. Why am I saying this? The current Pontiff is a general, that is, the current head of the Jesuit Order, the Society of Jesus. But they, like representatives of another Catholic religious order of the Dominicans, consider themselves, as far as I know, ‘Dogs of God’, who are called to find and gnaw out heresy. And dogs, naturally, tend to bark. So the Pope may not use ‘barking’ as a swear word but quite the opposite. And if I am not mistaken, he does not condemn this NATO’s barking at all. He just asks himself in cautious doubts whether this back-alley yapping could provoke Russia’s anger. Maybe they’ve overdone it somehow and it’s necessary to shorten the leashes of the stray mutts. As if not to get hit with a stick on the scruff of the neck. That’s in the Jesuit style! But there are no specifics or unambiguity in such a Pope’s assessments and position and there will never be.
- Do you suspect the Pontiff of hypocrisy?
- God forbid! Pope Francis very carefully, saving his face, sends us a clear signal about the readiness of the sane elements in the West, contrary to the ‘hawks’, to negotiate with Russia. He does it quite sincerely. He just has nowhere to go. And this is very valuable – an outstretched hand cannot be rejected. Another thing is that we should shake it very carefully.
- What do you mean? All sorts of poisoners from the Borgia Family?
- You’re wrong. Every country has its own skeletons in the closet. You can remember our Ivan the Terrible, and the Romanovs are not angels, there are detective stories. I’m talking about something else. Francis tells in an interview about his forty-minute conversation on Zoom with Patriarch Kirill. After hearing arguments about military actions from our Patriarch, he told him: ‘I don’t understand any of this. Brother, we are not state clerics, we shouldn’t speak the language of politics, but rather the language of Jesus’…
In addition, the Pope mentioned the opportunity to meet with Patriarch Kirill in Jerusalem on 14 June. We are talking about the second face-to-face meeting after Cuba.
- What do you think could be discussed at this meeting, if it takes place?
- I hope it wouldn’t be just about theological issues. I think the Pontiff really has something to convey to the Russian leadership with the help of the Patriarch. And, judging by his initiative, it is very important and urgent. Moreover, among his flock are Catholic Biden and many leaders of the US Democratic Party.