Pope blasts Russia’s ‘infantile’ war, EU-Libya deal in Malta

Apr 1, 2022, 11:30 AM | Updated: Apr 2, 2022, 9:47 am
Pope Francis sits onboard a catamaran leaving Valletta's harbor for Gozo in Malta Saturday, April 2...

Pope Francis sits onboard a catamaran leaving Valletta's harbor for Gozo in Malta Saturday, April 2, 2022. Pope Francis headed to the Mediterranean island nation of Malta on Saturday for a pandemic-delayed weekend visit, aiming to draw attention to Europe's migration challenge that has only become more stark with Russia's invasion of Ukraine. (Andreas Solaro/Pool via AP)

(Andreas Solaro/Pool via AP)

VALLETTA, Malta (AP) — Pope Francis said Saturday he was considering a possible visit to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and blasted the leader who launched a “savage” war, delivering his most pointed denunciation yet of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In his remarks in Malta, Francis didn’t cite President Vladimir Putin by name, but the reference was clear when he said “some potentate” had unleashed the threat of nuclear war on the world in an “infantile and destructive aggression.”

“We had thought that invasions of other countries, savage street fighting and atomic threats were grim memories of a distant past,” Francis told Maltese officials on the Mediterranean island nation at the start of a weekend visit.

Francis has to date avoided referring to Russia or Putin by name, in keeping with the Vatican’s tradition of not calling out aggressors to keep open options for dialogue. But Saturday’s criticism of the powerful figure responsible for the war marked a new level of outrage for the pope.

“Once again, some potentate, sadly caught up in anachronistic claims of nationalist interest, is provoking and fomenting conflicts, whereas ordinary people sense the need to build a future that will either be shared or not be at all,” he said.

Francis told reporters en route to Malta that a possible visit to Kyiv was “on the table,” but no dates have been set or trip confirmed. The mayor of the Ukrainian capital had invited Francis on March 8 to come as a messenger of peace along with other religious figures, but has recently warned even healthy city residents who fled that the city is still endangered by Russian hostilities.

Francis also said the war had pained his heart so much that he sometimes forgets about the pain in his knees. Francis has been suffering for months from a strained ligament in his right knee. The inflammation got so bad that the Vatican arranged for a tarmac elevator to get him on and off the plane for Saturday’s flight to Malta, and his limp was more pronounced Saturday.

The Malta visit, originally scheduled for May 2020, was always supposed to focus on migration, given Malta’s role at the heart of Europe’s migration debate. The issue took on more import with the forced exodus of over 4 million Ukrainian refugees. Francis focused his remarks on the perilous Mediterranean migration route and Europe’s flawed migration policies in welcoming people fleeing war, poverty and conflict.

Speaking with Malta’s president by his side, Francis denounced the “sordid agreements” the European Union has made with Libya to turn back migrants and said Europe must show humanity in welcoming them. He called for the Mediterranean to be a “theater of solidarity, not the harbinger of a tragic shipwreck of civilization.”

Francis was referring to the EU’s program to train Libya’s coast guard, which patrols the North African country’s coast for migrant smuggling and brings the would-be refugees back to shore. The program was strongly backed by Italy and other front-line Mediterranean countries to try to stem the flow of hundreds of thousands of desperate migrants each year.

But human rights groups have condemned the EU-funded program as a violation of the migrants’ rights and documented gross abuses in the Libyan detention camps. Just this week, German said its military would no longer provide training to the Libyan coast guard given its “unacceptable,” and in some cases illegal, treatment of migrants.

Francis has condemned the Libyan detention facilities as concentration camps, but he went further Saturday to shame the EU for its complicity in the abuses there.

“Civilized countries cannot approve for their own interest sordid agreements with criminals who enslave other human beings,” he said.

Malta, the European Union’s smallest country with a half-million people, has long been on the front lines of the flow of migrants and refugees across the Mediterranean and often has come under fire for refusing to let rescue ships dock. Just this week a German aid group sought port for 106 migrants rescued at sea and, by Saturday, the ship was heading to Sicily instead.

Malta has frequently called upon its bigger European neighbors to shoulder more of the burden receiving would-be refugees.

Francis has frequently echoed that call, and linked it on Saturday to the welcome the Maltese once gave the Apostle Paul, who according to the biblical account was shipwrecked off Malta around A.D. 60 while en route to Rome and was shown unusual kindness by the islanders.

Later Saturday, Francis travelled by catamaran ferry to the island of Gozo, making his own the Mediterranean seafaring tradition to celebrate a prayer meeting at Malta’s national shrine. Flanked by two Maltese churchmen who are key aides at the Vatican, Francis sat on a white chair on deck for the hour-long trip and was welcomed by thundering canons as the ship came in Gozo’s port.


Associated Press religion coverage receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Google’s artificially intelligent ‘Bard’ set for next stage

Google announced Tuesday it's allowing more people to interact with “ Bard,” the artificially intelligent chatbot the company is building to counter Microsoft's early lead in a pivotal battleground of technology.
10 hours ago
Evelyn Knapp, a supporter of former President Donald, waves to passersby outside of Trump's Mar-a-L...
Associated Press

Trump legal woes force another moment of choosing for GOP

From the moment he rode down the Trump Tower escalator to announce his first presidential campaign, a searing question has hung over the Republican Party: Is this the moment to break from Donald Trump?
1 day ago
FILE - The Silicon Valley Bank logo is seen at an open branch in Pasadena, Calif., on March 13, 202...
Associated Press

Army of lobbyists helped water down banking regulations

It seemed like a good idea at the time: Red-state Democrats facing grim reelection prospects would join forces with Republicans to slash bank regulations — demonstrating a willingness to work with President Donald Trump while bucking many in their party.
1 day ago
FILE - This Sept. 2015, photo provided by NOAA Fisheries shows an aerial view of adult female South...
Associated Press

Researchers: Inbreeding a big problem for endangered orcas

People have taken many steps in recent decades to help the Pacific Northwest's endangered killer whales, which have long suffered from starvation, pollution and the legacy of having many of their number captured for display in marine parks.
2 days ago
FILE - Hiring signs are displayed at a grocery store in Arlington Heights, Ill., Jan. 13, 2023. Emp...
Associated Press

Pay transparency is spreading. Here’s what you need to know

U.S. employers are increasingly posting salary ranges for job openings, even in states where it’s not required by law, according to analysts with several major job search websites.
2 days ago
Meadowdale High School 9th grade students Juanangel Avila, right, and Legacy Marshall, left, work t...
David Klepper and Manuel Valdes, Associated Press

Seattle high school teacher advocates for better digital literacy in schools

Shawn Lee, a high school social studies teacher in Seattle, wants to see lessons on internet akin to a kind of 21st century driver's education, an essential for modern life.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!
safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Pope blasts Russia’s ‘infantile’ war, EU-Libya deal in Malta