Ukraine and allies slam Pope for suggesting country 'raises the white flag' to Putin's invading forces

10 March 2024, 19:05

Ukraine and its allies have slammed Pope Francis after the religious leader suggested the country should 'raise the white flag' in its war with Russia.
Ukraine and its allies have slammed Pope Francis after the religious leader suggested the country should 'raise the white flag' in its war with Russia. Picture: Alamy

By Chay Quinn

Ukraine and its allies have slammed Pope Francis after the religious leader suggested the country should 'raise the white flag' in its war with Russia.

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In an interview recorded last month with Swiss broadcaster RSI, the Pope said: "I think that the strongest one is the one who looks at the situation, thinks about the people, has the courage of the white flag, and negotiates".

Ukrainian officials and other allies of the war-torn nation have criticised the Catholic leader - interpreting his words as a call for a negotiated surrender to invading Putin.

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The foreign minister of Poland, a vocal ally of Kyiv, and Ukraine's ambassador to the Vatican both used Second World War analogies to condemn the pope's remarks, while a leader of one of Ukraine's Christian churches said on Sunday that only the country's determined resistance to Russia's aggression had prevented a mass slaughter of civilians.

Vatican City, Vatican, 10 March 2024. Pope Francis  delivers his  Angelus noon prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St.Peter's Square at the Vatican. Maria Grazia Picciarella/Alamy Live News
Ukrainian officials and other allies of the war-torn nation have criticised the Catholic leader - interpreting his words as a call for a negotiated surrender to invading Putin. Picture: Alamy

"How about, for balance, encouraging (Russian President Vladimir) Putin to have the courage to withdraw his army from Ukraine? Peace would immediately ensue without the need for negotiations," Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said on X.

In a separate post, Mr Sikorski drew parallels between those calling for negotiations while "denying (Ukraine) the means to defend itself" and European leaders' "appeasement" of Adolf Hitler just before the Second World War.

Andrii Yurash, Ukraine's ambassador to the Holy See, said it is "necessary to learn lessons" from that conflict. His post on X appeared to compare the pope's comments to calls for "talking with Hitler" while raising "a white flag to satisfy him".

Kiev, Ukraine. 09th Mar, 2024. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said multiple times that the initiative in peace negotiations must come from the country that has been invaded. Picture: Alamy

A Vatican spokesman later clarified that the pope supported "a stop to hostilities (and) a truce achieved with the courage of negotiations", rather than an outright Ukrainian surrender.

Matteo Bruni said the journalist interviewing Francis used the term "white flag" in the question that prompted the controversial remarks.

Kyiv remains firm on not engaging directly with Russia on peace talks, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said multiple times that the initiative in peace negotiations must come from the country that has been invaded.

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