Pope Francis "stubbornly believes in peace": Vatican Diplomat

Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher. | Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

Veteran Vatican diplomat Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher last week defended what he described as Pope Francis’ “strong and courageous” push for peace in Ukraine in the face of criticism from some who have said the Holy Father should take a harder line against Russia as the aggressor in the conflict.

Speaking in Rome at a presentation of the newly released “Ukrainian Lessons” published by the geopolitical magazine Limes, the Vatican secretary for relations with states acknowledged that many Ukrainians have experienced “profound disappointment” at the Holy Father’s statements on Ukraine, L’Osservatore Romano reported.

“What moves the Holy Father is nothing but the will to make dialogue and peace possible,” Gallagher said, “inspired by the principle that ‘the Church must not use the language of politics, but the language of Jesus.’”

Francis has often raised the issue of the war, calling it a “negation of God’s dream” and lamenting “the sacrifice of human lives, the suffering of the population, the indiscriminate destruction of civilian structures.” 

On occasion, he has sparked criticism from the Ukrainian government. In August of last year, for example, following a car bombing that killed the daughter of an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the pope declared: “The innocent pay for war, the innocent! Let us think about this reality and say to each other: War is madness.” 


At the time the Ukrainian ambassador to the Holy See claimed that the pope had conflated the categories of “aggressor and victim” with his remarks.

Quoting partly from “Ukrainian Lessons,” Gallagher said that “interpreting [Francis’ positions] as ‘acts of empty pacifism’ and ‘theatrical’ expressions of ‘pious desire’” is a misguided analysis of what the pope believes. 

Such a dismissal, Gallagher said, “does not do justice to the vision and intentions of the Holy Father, who does not want to resign himself to the war and who stubbornly believes in peace, inviting everyone to be creative and courageous weavers and artisans of peace.”

The pope “clearly said that he made the distinction between aggressor and attacked, with the incontestable certainty that the whole world knows well which is which,” Gallagher argued. 

Pope Francis last month sent Polish Cardinal Konrad Krajewski to Ukraine for the prelate’s sixth humanitarian mission to the war-torn country, with the Vatican stating that Krajewski was traveling to “be with the people, pray with them, and bring an embrace and concrete support from the pontiff.” The cardinal brought with him medicines and medical supplies. 

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In addition, Francis has appealed to Putin for a cease-fire and criticized Russia’s use of mercenaries as “monstrous.”

Daniel Payne is a senior editor at Catholic News Agency. He previously worked at the College Fix and Just the News. He lives in Virginia with his family.