Lithuania invites papal nuncio to talk over Pope Francis Russia comments

Pope Francis accepting the credentials from Estonia’s ambassador to the Vatican Celia Kuningas-Saagpakk (photo taken in 2020).
Pope Francis accepting the credentials from Estonia’s ambassador to the Vatican Celia Kuningas-Saagpakk (photo taken in 2020). Source: Vatican News/Estonian foreign ministry

Lithuania's foreign ministry has invited an Apostolic Nuncio for a discussion following remarks which Pope Francis reportedly made recently in which he referred to "Great mother Russia," news portal Politico reports.

The comments as reported sparked outrage in Kyiv, Politico says, in the light of Russia's ongoing war of aggression in and against Ukraine, and the extent to which Russia's imperial past is often evoked by Kremlin and pro-Kremlin propagandists.

Oleg Nikolenko, a Ukraine foreign ministry spokesperson,  called it "very unfortunate that Russian great-power ideas, which are actually the cause of Russia's chronic aggressiveness, knowingly or unknowingly, come from the lips of the Pope."

A video speech given to to the All-Russian Meeting of Catholic Youth in St. Petersburg reportedly included references to Peter I (reigned 1682-1725) and Catherine II (1762-1798), both of whom have the moniker "the great" attached to their names and as such two of the most important symbols of Russian imperialism at a time when the country expanded in all directions.

The pontiff himself suggested to the young people watching that they were heirs to a legacy of a "great, enlightened Russian empire."

A short clip was posted online of part of the address.

A Vatican spokesperson strongly denied (link in Italian) the accusation, saying Pope Francis "intended to encourage young people to preserve and promote what is positive in Russia's great cultural and spiritual heritage, and certainly not to glorify imperialistic logic and governmental personalities."

A spokesperson for Lithuania's foreign ministry on Wednesday told Politico they had invited the Apostolic Nuncio for a chat, which may happen after the nuncio, Archbishop Petar Rajic, returns from vacation in early September, Politico reports.

Pope Francis, a native of Argentina, also encouraged a conciliatory approach in his video speech, and has also repeatedly criticized the Russian invasion of Ukraine, calling for an end to the conflict.

Catholicism in overwhelmingly Orthodox Russia remains a minority faith; members of the Eastern Rite variant of the faith in particular suffered during the persecutions of the Soviet era; Estonia's own pre-war apostolic administrator of the Holy See, Archbishop Eduard Profittlich, was arrested in 1940 and died in incarceration in Kirov, Russia, in 1942.

Pope Francis made an official visit to Estonia in September 2018.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: Politico

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