The Pope reportedly said that what we are seeing in the war in Chechnya is “the brutality and ferocity with which this war is waged by the troops, generally mercenary, used by the Russians.” He said that the Russians “prefer to send Chechens, Syrians, mercenaries forward. But the danger is that we only see this, which is monstrous, and we do not see the whole drama that is unfolding behind this war, which was perhaps in some way either provoked or not prevented.”
Pope Francis spoke inaccurately when he stated, “I’m neither for Putin nor against reducing the distinction between good and bad, without thinking about roots and interests, which are very complex.”
“While we see the ferocity, the cruelty of [Russian President Vladimir Putin’s] troops, we must not forget the problems to try to solve them,” Pope Francis said. Before Russia invaded Ukraine he met with “a head of state” who “was very worried about how NATO was moving,” he added. “I asked him why, and he replied: ‘They are barking at the gates of Russia. And they do not understand that [Putin] is imperial and does not allow any foreign power to approach them,'” said the Pope, adding that the unnamed head of state told him “the situation could lead to war.”
Pope Francis hopes to have the opportunity to speak with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, later this year, after a scheduled meeting between the pair was postponed as a result of the crisis in Ukraine.
In separate remarks published Tuesday by the Vatican, Pope Francis said he hoped to meet with Russian Patriarch Kirill at a general assembly in Kazakhstan in September. The Pope recently cancelled a trip to Africa due to a knee injury. As part of a message for the Roman Catholic Church’s World Day of the Poor, which will be marked in November, Pope Francis said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “has now been added to the regional wars that have been taking a heavy toll of death and destruction.”