By Paul Goble
Earlier this month, Pope Francis told an audience of young Russians that he hoped they would draw on their national traditions in building the future, remarks that not surprisingly sparked outrage in Ukraine and elsewhere in Eastern Europe (ru/politics/2023/08/30/ukraina-raskritikovala-papu-rimskogo-za-obrashhenie-k-rossiyskoy-molodezhi.html and rubaltic.ru/news/30082023-mid-litvy-vyzval-posla-vatikana-posle-zayavleniya-papy-rimskogo-o-velikoy-rossii/).
Not surprisingly, the Vatican’s press office has now issued a clarification pointing out that the Holy Father, a consistent critic of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, did not intend by his remarks to “exalt imperialist logic” (cnbc.com/2023/08/29/pope-did-not-intend-to-glorify-russian-imperialism-in-speech-vatican-says.html).
Specifically, the press office said that “in the off-the-cuff greetings to some young Russian Catholics in recent days, as is clear from the context in which he pronounced them, the Pope intended to encourage young people to preserve and promote all that is positive in the great cultural and Russian spirituality.”
The leader of the world’s Catholics, the representative said, “certainly [did not intend] to exalt imperialist logic and government personalities.” This statement may calm the current conflict; but at the very least, it is an indication of just how sensitive religious and ethnic issues remain in Eastern Europe.