Zelensky Rips The Pope, Rejects Call For Peace Talks

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by Tyler Durden
Monday, Mar 11, 2024 - 06:40 PM

In his Sunday night address to the nation, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky rejected Pope Francis' calls for Kiev to enter peace negotiations with Russia to end the war. Days ago the Pope told a Swiss broadcaster that Ukraine must have the "the courage of the white flag" and that negotiations must happen "before things get worse."

Zelensky didn't mention Francis by name, but he clearly took shots at the leader of the world's Catholics. "They support us with prayer, with their discussion and with deeds," the Ukraine president said. "This is indeed what a church with the people is."

"Not 2,500km away, somewhere, virtual mediation between someone who wants to live and someone who wants to destroy you," he continued with the dig. European media described Zelensky's comments as a sharp rejection of the call for negotiations.

A meeting at the Vatican in May 2023. CNS/Vatican Media

Ukraine officials have taken particular offense at Pope Francis essentially declaring that Ukraine's military has been defeated by Russia. "When you see that you are defeated, that things are not going well, you have to have the courage to negotiate. Negotiations are never a surrender," Francis had said in the interview published Friday.

While Ukraine is a majority Orthodox Christian country, it still has a sizeable minority of Catholics, concentrated in the West, such as in the city of Lviv. The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, weighed in and rebuked the Pope's words. He said during a weekend visit to New York City, "Ukraine is wounded, but unconquered! Ukraine is exhausted, but it stands and will endure. Believe me, it never crosses anyone’s mind to surrender."

Additionally, Ukraine’s top diplomat, Dmytro Kuleba, hit back at the Vatican by saying, "Our flag is a yellow and blue one. This is the flag by which we live, die, and prevail. We shall never raise any other flags."

But it was Ukraine's ambassador to the Vatican, Andrii Yurash, who had the fiercest condemnation. He said there will be no "peace talking with Hitler". He continued: “If we want to finish [the] war, we have to do everything to kill [the] dragon.”

Anton Gerashchenko, who was previously an influential adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry, also lashed out at the Pope, saying "It does seem strange that the pope doesn’t urge to defend Ukraine, doesn’t condemn Russia as an aggressor who killed tens of thousands of people, doesn’t urge Putin to stop, but calls on Ukraine to raise the white flag instead."

As for the Kremlin, it reacted by saying Russia remains open to peace talks to end the war, but then emphasized that it is the Zelensky government which remains closed to the possibility of dialogue. According to Russian media:

“The idea that [the Pope] spoke about is quite understandable,” Peskov said. “You know that [Russian President Vladimir Putin] has repeatedly spoken about our readiness and openness to solve our problems through negotiations and this is the preferred way.” 

The spokesman noted, however, that the Pope’s calls, as well as those from other countries, including Russia, “have recently been met with an absolutely harsh rejection by the Kiev regime.”

Pope 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. Francis has also repeatedly gone after Western arms makers for having an incentive to fuel conflict in Eastern Europe.