Pope Francis to Patriarch Kirill: “War always unjust, those who pay are the people”

Of Gian Guido Vecchi

Conversation, by videoconference, between the Pontiff and the patriarch of Moscow

VATICAN CITY “The Church must not use the language of politics, but the language of Jesus. Those who pay the bill for the war are the people, the Russian soldiers and the people who are bombed and die.” The two talk to each other via video connection and the words of Pope Francis to the patriarch of Moscow Kirill are important: “As pastors, we have a duty to be close to and help all the people who suffer from war. At one time there was also talk in our Churches of holy war or just war. Today we cannot speak like that. The Christian awareness of the importance of peace has developed ”.

Words that evoke the Pacem in terris that John XXIII wrote in 1963, the year after the Cuban missile crisis, to say that in the era of atomic weapons the war “alienum est a ratione”, totally alien to reason: at the general audience, not surprisingly, Francis had spoken of the idea “of a final catastrophe that will extinguish us”, or “what happens with a possible atomic war”.

For Kirill, who in the afternoon also spoke with the Anglican primate Justin Welby, it was also a way of trying to get out of the isolation in which he found himselfwithin the Orthodox world, after a bewildering series of sermons in which, in homage to his connection with Putin, he evoked a “metaphysical” confrontation against the sinful West of “gay parades” and prayed in the Moscow cathedral for the victory.

The first news of the meeting – which was also attended by Cardinal Kurt Koch, the Vatican responsible for dialogue between Christians, and Metropolitan Hilarion, Kirill’s “foreign minister”, was the patriarchate itself – with a statement in which, without the word “war” ever appearing, it was said that Kirill “greeted the Primate of the Roman Catholic Church cordially” and there was “a detailed discussion of the situation on Ukrainian soil”, a particular “Attention to the humanitarian aspects of the current crisis” and “the parties underlined the exceptional importance of the ongoing negotiation processexpressing their hope for a just peace to be reached as soon as possible ».

In these weeks the Holy See was careful to maintain a diplomatic opening in view of a possible mediation, and the meeting this afternoon is proof of this. But the Vatican version of the meeting with Kirill shows how the words of Francis, who had already denounced the war in recent days (“It is not just a military operation, but a war, which sows death, destruction and misery”) and the “unacceptable armed aggression” against Ukraine, were more pronounced, while addressing the Orthodox patriarch. “The discussion centered on the war in Ukraine and the role of Christians and their pastors in doing everything possible for peace to prevail,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said. “Pope Francis thanked the Patriarch for this meeting, motivated by the desire to indicate, as shepherds of their people, a path to peace, to pray for the gift of peace, so that the fire may cease”. Both “underlined the exceptional importance of the ongoing negotiation process” Above all, the Holy See reports what the Pope said to the patriarch: «We are shepherds of the same Holy People who believe in God, in the Holy Trinity, in the Holy Mother of God: for this we must unite in the effort to help peace, to help those who suffer, to seek ways of peace, to stop the fire “.

In the end, “agreeing with the Patriarch on what” The Churches are called to contribute to strengthening peace and justice “”, Francis concluded: «Wars are always unjust. Because the one who pays is the people of God. Our hearts cannot help but cry in front of the children, the killed women, all the victims of the war. War is never the way. The Spirit that unites us asks us as pastors to help the peoples who suffer from war ». In the morning, at the end of the general audience, Francis had made his own and read to the faithful a prayer written by the archbishop of Naples, Domenico Battaglia: «Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners! Lord Jesus, born under the bombs of Kiev, have mercy on us! Lord Jesus, who died in his mother’s arms in a bunker in Kharkiv, have mercy on us! Lord Jesus, sent twenty years old to the front, have mercy on us! Lord Jesus, who still see armed hands in the shadow of your cross, have mercy on us! Forgive us Lord, if we are not satisfied with the nails with which we pierced your hand, we continue to drink the blood of the dead torn by arms ».

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