Bishops Move Past Pope's Neutrality on War

Head of Polish bishops conference urges Russian Orthodox Church to pressure Putin
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 5, 2022 1:15 PM CST
Bishop Moves Beyond Pope, Condemns Invasion
Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill embrace in 2016 in Havana.   (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, Pool)

The head of the Polish bishops conference has done what Pope Francis has so far avoided doing: He publicly condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine and urged the head of the Russian Orthodox Church to use his influence with President Vladimir Putin to demand that the war be ended and that Russian soldiers stand down. "The time will come to settle these crimes, including before the international courts," Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki warned in a letter to Patriarch Kirill, the AP reports. "However, even if someone manages to avoid this human justice, there is a tribunal that cannot be avoided."

Gadecki's tone was significant because it contrasted sharply with the comparative neutrality of the Vatican and Francis to date. The Holy See has called for peace, humanitarian corridors, a cease-fire, and a return to negotiations, and even offered itself as a mediator. But Francis has yet to publicly condemn Russia by name for its invasion or publicly appeal to Kirill, and the Vatican offered no comment on the Russian strike on Europe's largest nuclear plant that sparked a fire Friday. For a pope who has declared the mere possession of nuclear weapons immoral and cautioned against using atomic energy because of the environmental threat posed by radiation leaks, the silence was even more notable.

The Vatican has a tradition of quiet diplomacy, believing that it can facilitate dialogue better if it doesn't take sides or publicly call out aggressors. Francis took an unprecedented step last week when he went to the Russian Embassy to the Holy See to meet with the ambassador. But the only thing the Vatican said about the meeting was that Francis went to "express his concern about the war." He also spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, took a similarly unusual step this week when, in an interview with four Italian newspapers, he named Russia in saying the war had been "unleashed by Russia against Ukraine."

(More Pope Francis stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.