The Pope erupts in Russia’s “infantile” war

VALETA, Malta (AP) – Pope Francis said on Saturday that he was studying a possible visit to Kyiv, and accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of starting a “wild” war. Speaking after his arrival in Malta, he made his sharpest and most personalized denunciation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Francis did not name Putin, but the reference was clear when he said that “some ruler” had unleashed the threat of world nuclear war in “infantile and destructive aggression” under the guise of “anachronistic declarations of nationalist interests.” ».

“We thought that invasions of other countries, fierce street battles and nuclear threats were grim memories of the distant past,” Franciszek told Maltese officials and diplomats in the Mediterranean island nation at the start of a weekend visit.

Until now, Francis has avoided calling Russia or Putin by name. But Saturday’s personalization of the powerful figure responsible for this marked a new level of outrage for the Pope.

“Again, a ruler, unfortunately obsessed with anachronistic claims to nationalist interests, provokes and incites conflicts, while ordinary people feel the need to build a future that will be either common or not,” he said.

The Vatican is trying not to call on the aggressors in the hope of maintaining open options for dialogue. The Vatican, which in recent years has established unprecedented new relations with Putin’s ally the Russian Orthodox Church, has offered itself as a potential mediator, but has largely remained in diplomatic strife to date.

Franciszek told reporters on the way to Malta that a possible visit to Kyiv was “ready”, but no dates or trips have been confirmed. The mayor of the Ukrainian capital invited Francis to come as a messenger of peace along with other religious figures.

Francis also said that the war hurt his heart so much that sometimes he forgets about the pain in his knees. Francis suffered for several months from sprained right knee ligaments. The inflammation became so severe that the Vatican arranged an elevator with asphalt to deliver it and get off the plane for Saturday’s flight to Malta.

The visit, originally scheduled for May 2020, has always had to focus on migration, given Malta’s role at the heart of the debate on migration in Europe.

Speaking to the President of Malta next to him, Francis condemned the “indecent agreements” that the European Union has concluded with Libya to return migrants, and said that Europe must show humanity by welcoming them. He called for the Mediterranean to be “a theater of solidarity, not a harbinger of the tragic shipwreck of civilization.”

Franciszek was referring to the European Union’s (EU) seven-year program to train Libya’s coastguards, which patrols the Mediterranean coast of North Africa for smuggling operations and returns potential refugees ashore. The program was adopted and strongly supported by Italy and other frontline Mediterranean countries to try to stop the flow of hundreds of thousands of desperate migrants who pay Libyan smugglers to cross the Mediterranean into Europe.

Human rights organizations have condemned the EU-funded program as a violation of migrants’ rights and documented gross abuses in camps where returned migrants are detained. Just last week, Germany said its military would no longer conduct training for Libyan coastguards, given its “unacceptable” and in some cases illegal treatment of migrants.

Franciszek condemned Libyan detention centers as concentration camps, but on Saturday he went on to disgrace the EU for its complicity in abuses.

“Civilized countries cannot claim in their interests vile agreements with criminals who rob other people,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s happening.”

Today, when those who cross the Mediterranean in search of salvation face fear and the story of the “invasion”, and ensuring their own security at all costs seems the main goal, let’s help each other not to see the migrant as a threat and not be tempted to build drawbridges and build walls, ”he said.

“Other people are not a virus to be protected from, but people to be accepted,” he said.

Malta, the smallest EU country with a population of half a million, has long been at the forefront of the flow of migrants and refugees across the Mediterranean. She has often called on her major European neighbors to take on more of the burden of taking in potential refugees.

Francis often repeated this call and linked it on Saturday to the greeting that the Maltese once gave to the Apostle Paul, who, according to the biblical account, was shipwrecked near Malta around 60 AD. on the way to Rome and the islanders showed extraordinary kindness. .

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