During the last month and a half, since the war began, there have been many Ukrainian flags carried by the faithful that could be seen waving in St. Peter’s Square during the pontiff’s Sunday Angelus service.
On Wednesday, however, at the end of the Wednesday general audience in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, Pope Francis himself unfurled a Ukrainian flag he had received as a gift before those present.
“Yesterday [Tuesday] they brought me this flag, straight from Bucha,” Bergoglio said during the final greetings. “This flag comes from the war, right from that martyred city.” The “off-protocol” gesture of the pontiff was also highlighted by the front page of Wednesday’s Osservatore Romano, which shows a large photo of Francis and the headline: “The flag that tells the horror of Bucha.”
“Recent news from the war in Ukraine, instead of bringing relief and hope, have brought new atrocities, such as the massacre of Bucha: ever more horrendous cruelties, carried out even against civilians, women and defenseless children. These are victims whose innocent blood cries out to Heaven and implores us: Put an end to this war! Silence the weapons! Stop sowing death and destruction!,” said Bergoglio, who then brought up five Ukrainian children alongside him – five siblings from a family home in Odessa, who have been in Cagliari since March 24 – together with their mothers.
“These children had to flee and arrive in a foreign land: this is one of the fruits of war. Let’s not forget them, and let’s not forget the Ukrainian people. It is hard to be uprooted from one’s own land because of a war,” he continued.
After some initial caution in the first hours, the pontiff’s denunciation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been clear, even if some still accuse him of being pro-Putin or of issuing nothing more than “a generic condemnation of war and rearmament,” as Ernesto Galli Della Loggia wrote in Corriere della Sera.
However, Francis continues to highlight the structural causes of war: imperialism, nationalism, the arms race. He did so during his recent trip to Malta as well, decrying the “seductions of autocracy,” the “new imperialisms” and the “great investments and commerce of arms.”
And he did so again on Wednesday during the general audience: “Today we often speak of geopolitics, but unfortunately the dominant logic is that of the strategies of the most powerful states, aimed at making their interests prevail by extending their area of economic, ideological or military influence: that’s what we’re seeing with this war,” “and not only from one side, but also from others,” the pontiff said.
“After World War II, an attempt was made to lay the foundations of a new history of peace, but unfortunately we never learn – the old history of competing great powers has continued. And, in the current war in Ukraine, we are witnessing the powerlessness of the United Nations.”
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