“I have to go to Moscow first, I have to meet Putin first,” the pope told the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera in an interview published Tuesday.
“How is it possible that this brutality will not stop? Twenty-five years ago, with Rwanda, we lived the same experience”, the pope added, referring to the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, the attempted extermination of the Tutsi population by the hegemonic Hutu government, in which some 800,000 people died, according to UN figures.
Francis recalled that “on the first day of the war” he called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky by phone and repeated several times during the interview that he was ready to go to Moscow.
“In December I spoke with him [Putin] for my birthday, but this time I didn’t call. I wanted to make a clear gesture that everyone could see and so I addressed the Russian ambassador. I asked them to explain to me, I told them to please stop. Then I asked the cardinal [Pietro] Parolin, after twenty days of war, to send a message to Putin that he was willing to go to Moscow”, he stresses.
“We have not yet received a response and we continue to insist, although I am afraid that Putin cannot and does not want to hold this meeting at this time,” he said.
Questioning the causes of the conflict, the Catholic leader spoke that the “anger” of the Kremlin had been “facilitated” by “NATO’s barking at the gates of Russia”, statements that Poland did not like.
“Many of us raised our hands to our heads when we heard what the pope said,” Polish Education Minister Przemyslaw Czarnek reacted on state television, saying the statements had “offended” Poles.
The pope also reasoned about the supply of weapons by Western countries to the Ukrainian resistance, an issue that divides the Catholic world.
“I don’t know how to answer the question of whether it is correct to supply the Ukrainians, what is clear is that weapons are being tested on that land. The Russians now know that tanks are of little use and are thinking of other things. Wars are fought for that: to test the weapons we have made,” he stated.