Pope criticised for saying Ukraine should ‘raise white flag’ and end war with Russia

Pope Francis has been criticised after saying Ukraine should have the courage of the “white flag” and negotiate an end to the war with Russia.

Some politicians and commentators in Europe reacted with anger after the pontiff appeared to stay silent on Russia’s crimes as aggressor in the invasion, which has killed tens of thousands, and placed the onus on Ukraine to make peace.

The Latvian president, Edgars Rinkēvičs, wrote on X: “My Sunday morning take: One must not capitulate in [the] face of evil, one must fight it and defeat it, so that the evil raises the white flag and capitulates.”

Dennis Radtke, a German Christian Democrat MEP, said the word “shameful” could be used to describe the pope’s comments. “His stance on Ukraine reflects poorly on his pontificate. It is incomprehensible,” Radtke posted on X.

Anton Gerashchenko, a blogger and former adviser to Ukraine’s internal affairs ministry, wrote on X: “It does seem strange that the Pope doesn’t urge to defend Ukraine, doesn’t condemn Russia as an aggressor who killed tens of thousands of people, doesn’t urge Putin to stop, but calls on Ukraine to raise the white flag instead. Do all his Cardinals share this position?”

In an interview broadcast on Saturday by Swiss television, but which the Vatican said was conducted in February, the pontiff urged parties in the Ukraine war to “have the courage to negotiate”, and do so “before things get worse”.

The 87-year-old pope was asked by the public broadcaster RTS about a debate within Ukraine on whether to surrender to Russia’s invasion. “I believe that the strongest are those who see the situation, think about the people, and have the courage to raise the white flag and negotiate,” he said. “That word negotiate is a brave word. When you see that you are defeated, that things are not working out, to have the courage to negotiate.”

Ukrainians, Francis said, should not be afraid to negotiate a peace deal before the situation deteriorates any further. “Today, for example with the war in Ukraine, there are many who want to act as mediators. Turkey for example. Don’t be ashamed to negotiate before things get worse.”

Speaking about conflict in general, including the Israel-Gaza war, Francis added: “Negotiations are never a surrender. It is the courage not to carry a country to suicide.”

The Vatican’s director of communications, Matteo Bruni, issued a statement seeking to clarify the pope’s words. He said Francis had used the term white flag “to indicate a cessation of hostilities, a truce reached with the courage of negotiation”. He repeated the pontiff’s call for a “diplomatic solution in search of a just and lasting peace” in what Francis called the “martyred” Ukraine.

Title: Pope criticised for saying Ukraine should ‘raise white flag’ and end war with Russia
URL: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/mar/10/pope-francis-criticised-for-saying-ukraine-should-raise-white-flag-and-end-war-with-russia
Source: the Guardian
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Date: March 10, 2024 at 04:26PM
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