Russia protests pope comments as Vatican seeks to mediate

Nov 28, 2022, 3:34 PM | Updated: Nov 29, 2022, 5:36 am
Pope Francis walks past a Vatican Swiss Guard as he arrives to meet with members of the Italian Sch...

Pope Francis walks past a Vatican Swiss Guard as he arrives to meet with members of the Italian Schools for Peace Network in the Pope Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Monday, Nov. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

(AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

              Pope Francis delivers his blessing as he meets with members of the Italian Schools for Peace Network in the Pope Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Monday, Nov. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
            
              Pope Francis walks past a Vatican Swiss Guard as he arrives to meet with members of the Italian Schools for Peace Network in the Pope Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Monday, Nov. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

ROME (AP) — Russia has lodged a formal protest with the Vatican over Pope Francis’ latest condemnation of atrocities in Ukraine, in which the pontiff blamed most of the cruelty on Chechens and other minorities in an apparent effort to spare ethnic Russian troops from criticism.

The Kremlin’s ambassador to the Holy See, Alexander Avdeev, told the RIA Novosti agency that he met Monday with a Vatican official to express his “indignation” about Francis’ comments, which were contained in an interview with the Jesuit magazine America that was published Monday.

In his comments, Francis defended his usual reluctance to call out President Vladimir Putin by name, saying it was clear Ukraine is the “martyred” victim in the war. But he also said that, while it was the Russian state that invaded Ukraine, “Generally, the cruelest are perhaps those who are of Russia but are not of the Russian tradition, such as the Chechens, the Buryats and so on.”

The pope’s apparent distinction between the mostly Muslim Chechens and Buddhist Buryats on the one hand, and ethnic Russian fighters on the other, irked Moscow.

“I expressed indignation at such insinuations and noted that nothing can shake the cohesion and unity of the multinational Russian people,” Avdeev was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti.

Throughout the nine-month war, Francis has tried to spare direct condemnation of Moscow for fear of antagonizing the Russian Orthodox Church, which has strongly backed Putin’s invasion on religious grounds. Francis has previously blamed “mercenaries” for the atrocities being committed in Ukraine, drawing criticism from the Kyiv government.

In the new comments, Francis was clearly trying to draw a line between those who follow “the Russian tradition” and allegedly more brutal Chechens and Buryats, when in fact Russian troops have been accused of war crimes regardless of their ethnicity.

While it wasn’t entirely clear what Francis meant by people who follow the “Russian tradition,” it could be a reference to the predominantly Russian Orthodox Christian roots of an estimated 68% of the population.

The RIA report also cited the regional leader of Buryatia, Alexey Tsydenov, as describing the pope’s remarks as “at least strange.” Buryatia, a Siberian republic which forms part of Russia, is home to indigenous Buryat Mongolians, who were reported to be disproportionally targeted by Moscow’s mobilization efforts alongside other minorities.

Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed leader of predominantly Muslim Chechnya, has been one of the most outspoken supporters of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, though fighters from the southern Russian republic have participated on both sides in the war. Pro-Kyiv volunteers, for example, have named their grouping after a late leader who headed Chechnya’s drive for independence from Moscow.

The latest dustup over Francis’ comments come as the Holy See tries to play a mediating role in the conflict. Francis and the Vatican secretariat of state have made repeated offers to try to facilitate peace talks, to no avail.

Asked Monday about the latest offer, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow appreciates the gesture but he noted that Ukraine has refused to hold talks.

The Vatican has a tradition of not taking sides in conflicts, believing it can be a more effective peacemaker with behind-the-scenes diplomacy. And Francis has tried to balance his rhetoric, expressing solidarity with the “martyred” people of Ukraine while also seemingly acknowledging Kremlin complaints about NATO “barking at its gates” by its eastward expansion.

The day after Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion Francis made a very public gesture by going to the Russian embassy to the Holy See to personally appeal to Avdeev for peace.

___

Kozolowska reported from London.

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

AP

Muslim protesters burn posters during a rally outside the Swedish Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, Mo...
Associated Press

Indonesian Muslims protest Quran burning in Sweden

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Hundreds of Indonesian Muslims marched to the heavily guarded Swedish Embassy in the country’s capital on Monday to denounce the recent desecration of Islam’s holy book by far-right activists in Sweden and the Netherlands. Waving white flags bearing the Islamic declaration of faith, more than 300 demonstrators filled a major thoroughfare […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Report: Slovenia authorities detain 2 alleged Russian spies

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia (AP) — Slovenian authorities have apprehended two alleged Russian spies who used an agency dealing in real estate and antiques as a front for their activities, media reported Monday. Slovenia’s respected Delo newspaper and the Siol news portal cited the public prosecutor’s office as confirming the arrests. According to the media outlets, the […]
1 day ago
FILE - Protestors march during a demonstration against pension changes, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023 in ...
Associated Press

France braces for major transport woes from pension strikes

PARIS (AP) — France’s national rail operator is recommending that passengers stay home Tuesday to avoid strikes over pensions that are expected to cause major transport woes but largely spare high-speed links to Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands. Labor unions that mobilized massive street protests in an initial salvo of nationwide strikes earlier this month […]
1 day ago
India's opposition Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi, center right and his sister and party leader...
Associated Press

Indian opposition’s ‘unity march’ ends in disputed Kashmir

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — India’s main opposition Congress party ended a five-month cross-country “unity march” in disputed Kashmir on Monday with hundreds of members of various opposition groups joining in a public rally in freezing temperatures. The march led by Rahul Gandhi, an opposition leader and scion of the influential Gandhi family, sought to challenge […]
1 day ago
FILE - Visitors wearing face masks talk near a display for Chinese online retailer JD.com at the Ch...
Associated Press

Chinese e-retailer JD.com leaving Thailand, Indonesia

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese online retailer JD.com Inc. is pulling out of Indonesia and Thailand amid intense competition in Southeast Asia. JD.com will stop taking orders Feb. 15 in both countries and shut down the following month, according to announcements Monday on the two websites. The company gave no reason for the closures, but e-commerce […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

German economy shrank 0.2% in Q4, worse than expected

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s economy shrank by 0.2% in the fourth quarter compared with the previous three-month period, official figures showed Monday. The performance by Europe’s biggest economy was worse than expected. Gross domestic product shrank for the first time since the first quarter of 2021 largely because of a decline in consumer spending, which […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

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.
SHIBA WA...

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.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Russia protests pope comments as Vatican seeks to mediate