Neither A Trip to Kyiv Nor a Meeting with Kirill for Pope Francis

May 02, 2022

In an interview granted to an Argentine newspaper, the sovereign pontiff evoked the Ukrainian conflict and responded to media criticisms accusing him of not taking a sufficient position.

“I am ready to do everything to stop the war, everything, do you hear me?” The interview granted by Pope Francis to La Nacion was a rambling one that took place on April 22, 2022.

It was an interview carried out despite the fatigue and pain of a pope forced to limp due to a torn knee ligament: “the recovery of the ligaments is done more slowly at my age,” Francis confides, smiling.

Suffering that does not prevent him from responding to the burning issues in the news. When asked why he never points the finger of responsibility for the Ukrainian conflict at Vladimir Putin or Russia, the Argentine pontiff replies that a “Pope could never directly appoint a head of State, let alone an entire country, which is somehow superior to its head of State.”

The controversy over the alleged “silence of Francis” began at the start of the war by the media, which found the opportunity to scratch the image of the pope. To these, Francis responds by warning them against the “four temptations of journalists: false news, slander, defamation, and coprophilia.” 

On the Ukrainian dossier, the sovereign pontiff confides that two cardinals of his entourage believe that they expect the war, for the most part, to end in the first days of May, but “no one can be assured what's really going to happen,” he added.

On the plane that took him from Rome to Malta, Saturday April 2, the sovereign pontiff had mentioned to journalists a proposal was “on the table” to go to Kyiv.” The mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, had officially invited Pope Francis to visit his city besieged by the Russians, on March 8, 2022. Bishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, apostolic nuncio in Ukraine, had forwarded the invitation to the Secretariat of State of the Holy See.

A diplomatic source contacted by the I.Media agency, however, felt that such a trip could be badly perceived by the Russian authorities and the Orthodox Church. The Holy See would then break with its role as a possible mediator: “The Pope cannot go and visit one part of this conflict, without going to visit the other.” Vatican diplomacy always seeks to respect this balance.

In the interview with La Nacion, the Pope dispels any misunderstanding: “I cannot do anything that jeopardizes higher objectives, which are the end of the war, a truce or, at least, a humanitarian corridor. What's the point of the pope going to Kyiv if the war continues the next day?” explains Francis.

No trip to Kyiv, no second meeting with the leader of the Russian Orthodox. It is moreover not without a certain bitterness that Francis brings up the subject: “I regret that the Vatican had to postpone our second meeting with Patriarch Kirill, which was to be held next June, in Jerusalem,” confirms Francis who specifies that Vatican diplomacy “deemed that such a summit at that time could lead to a lot of confusion.”

In any case, if there is a country that the sovereign pontiff intends to visit, it is Argentina: “I want to see my country again, because I have never forgotten it,” Francis slips in, with nostalgia, at the close of the interview.