Naming and shaming Russia not part of pope’s diplomatic playbook, experts say


VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Since the beginning of the warfare in Ukraine, Pope Francis has referred to as out “those that make warfare”, condemned violation of worldwide regulation, spoken of individuals “oppressed by bombs and concern” and lamented Ukraine as a “martyred nation”.

But he has shied away from publicly utilizing the phrases “Russia” or “invasion” in talking publicly of the battle, making him one of the few world leaders not to take action.

On Sunday he got here closest to pointing a finger instantly at Russia by implicitly rejecting Moscow’s use of the time period “particular navy operation” for its invasion of Ukraine.

“In Ukraine, rivers of blood and tears are flowing. This is not only a navy operation however a warfare which sows dying, destruction and distress,” he mentioned in his weekly handle to crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

But once more, the R-word and the I-word have been notably absent.

“This incomprehensible obstinacy of his is not good,” mentioned an editorial on the Il Sismografo web site, which specialises in Vatican and Catholic affairs.

“The rights of man, of peoples, of nations, are at play right here,” the editorial mentioned, including that the pope ought to publicly name out Russian President Vladimir Putin because the aggressor and enchantment to Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill, who backs Putin.

But experts say naming and shaming are not part of the Vatican’s diplomatic play e-book.

“These are the nuances which were practised by Vatican diplomacy all through the centuries,” mentioned Victor Gaetan, creator of “God’s Diplomats”, a 2021 e-book about Vatican diplomacy.

“You all the time depart room for the subsequent dialog, for the subsequent dialogue,” he advised Reuters by phone from Washington.


On Sunday, the pope mentioned “the Holy See is keen to do something to place itself on the service of peace”.

Ukraine has mentioned it will welcome Vatican mediation and Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin has mentioned it’s keen to “facilitate” dialogue”.

While the pope has not been particular, high aides have been extra direct. Parolin described the warfare as “unleashed by Russia”, and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, head of the Vatican division that oversees Eastern-rite Catholic Churches, referred to as it an “unjustified invasion”.

“Lower-level officers making stronger statements than the pope is a bit of a departure from custom however it’s apparently part of the technique,” Gaeten mentioned.

On Feb. 25, a day after the invasion began, the pope, in an unprecedented gesture, went to the Russian embassy to the Vatican to speak to Moscow’s ambassador. No particulars emerged.

One complication for the Vatican is its relations with the Russian Orthodox Church.

In 2016, Francis grew to become the primary pope to satisfy a pacesetter of the Russian Orthodox Church for the reason that nice schism that break up Christianity into Eastern and Western branches in 1054.

Both sides have declared a willingness to work in the direction of unity however they’re nonetheless far aside theologically and over what function the papacy would play in an finally reunited Church.

Any direct criticism by the pope of Russia or Putin may set again relations by many years and thwart a second assembly between the pope and Patriarch Kirill that either side had hoped to carry this yr, diplomats say.


Of 300 million Orthodox Christians on the earth, about 100 million are in Russia and greater than 30 million are in Ukraine, some of these in union with the Russian Orthodox Church.

There are additionally about 4.5 million Byzantine-rite Catholics in Ukraine who’re in allegiance with Rome. They are closely pro-West and Vatican sources say the pope is eager to keep away from something that would result in spiritual strife.

When Kirill and the pope met in Havana in 2016, they issued a joint assertion deploring any hostility in Ukraine and vowed that their church buildings would work for social concord within the nation.

But lately Kirill seems to have grown more and more nearer to Putin.

On Sunday, Kirill delivered an anti-West sermon praising the individuals of Donbass, the separatist area in Eastern Ukraine that’s backed by Moscow. He lauded them for resisting what he referred to as sinful Western practices, reminiscent of homosexual satisfaction parades.

Last week Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, president of the Polish Bishops Conference, despatched a public letter to Kirill asking him to inform Russian troopers “not to take part on this unjust warfare”, calling such a refusal “an ethical obligation” earlier than God.

Some are calling on the pope to make use of equally sturdy language.

(The story is refiled to alter ‘Western leaders’ to ‘world leaders’ in paragraph 2)

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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