Pope Francis Urges Ukraine To Have 'Courage Of The White Flag' & Negotiate End To War

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by Tyler Durden
Sunday, Mar 10, 2024 - 05:25 PM

Pope Francis has sparked fresh controversy after he said in a new interview published Saturday that Ukraine should have the "courage" to sit at the negotiating table with Russia and end the war through a peace agreement.

In particular his referencing the "white flag" is drawing outrage from European and Ukraine officials. "I think that the strongest one is the one who looks at the situation, thinks about the people and has the courage of the white flag, and negotiates," Francis told Swiss broadcaster RSI. He said this would happen with the help of outside mediating powers.

Francis continued by explaining that "the word negotiate is a courageous word." He emphasized, "When you see that you are defeated, that things are not going well, you have to have the courage to negotiate," and spelled out, "Negotiations are never a surrender." However, the words surely sting for the Zelensky government given how the Pope highlighted (albeit indirectly) that Ukraine forces are losing on the battlefield.

In April 2022, Pope Francis kissed a Ukrainian flag brought from Bucha. via AP

Francis additionally said that either side should "not be ashamed of negotiating before things get worse," and he offered that he himself would willingly mediate peace talks, or else several European countries could.

"Today, for example, in the war in Ukraine, there are many who want to mediate," he said. "Turkey has offered itself for this. And others. Do not be ashamed to negotiate before things get worse." President Zelensky just returned from a trip where he met with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Almost immediately in the wake of the interview being released, the pope was widely accused of siding with Russia. For example, Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski posted on X, "How about, for balance, encouraging Putin to have the courage to withdraw his army from Ukraine? Peace would immediately ensue without the need for negotiations."

As The Associated Press noted on Sunday, Ukrainian officials agreed with statements comparing to the Pope's comments to being willing to compromise with Hitler:

In a separate post, 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 World War II.

Andrii Yurash, Ukraine’s ambassador to the Holy See, said that it was "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."

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni has sought to clarify Francis' remarks but did not back down or retract the pontiff's 'controversial' statement. He said it was the interviewer that introduced the white flag reference to "indicate a cessation of hostilities, a truce reached with the courage of negotiation."

Bruni emphasized that Francis has "deep affection" for Ukraine and he's ultimately calling for "conditions for a diplomatic solution in search of a just and lasting peace."

Francis has been no stranger to controversy throughout the over two-year long war. After the opening few months of the war, in May 2022 he suggested that NATO expansion was a prime catalyst for the tragic conflict, describing that NATO had long been "barking at Russia's door" with its eastward expansion. That too elicited angry reaction from Ukraine officials and some of the Western allies. But NATO itself seemed to later acknowledge that this is accurate.