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Polish archbishop criticises Vatican ‘naïvety’ over war in Ukraine

27 May 2022


Pope Francis receives the Archbishop of Poznan, Stanislaw Gadecki, in March. The occasion marked the 30th anniversary of the Archbishop’s consecration, and 20 years since his translation to the archdiocesan see

Pope Francis receives the Archbishop of Poznan, Stanislaw Gadecki, in March. The occasion marked the 30th anniversary of the Archbishop’s consecration...

THE President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki of Poznan, has criticised the Vatican’s “naïve and utopian” attitude to the war in Ukraine, amid growing criticism of the Holy See’s diplomatic efforts to end the fighting.

“The Holy See is always neutral in its diplomatic activity and tries to be impartial towards warring parties — it knows Christians are often fighting on both sides; so it doesn’t identify the aggressor,” Archbishop Gadecki said. “Yet today . . . it’s crucially important the Holy See supports Ukraine at all levels, and isn’t guided by utopian thoughts drawn from liberation theology.”

The Archbishop spoke after touring Ukraine with a church delegation, including the Polish Primate, Archbishop Wojciech Polak of Gniezno, and Archbishop Stanislaw Budzik of Lublin.

The tour, which included talks in Kyiv with the head of Ukraine’s independent Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Epiphany (Dumenko), coincided with a visit by the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, who repeated previous Vatican offers to assist peace talks if Russia and Ukraine agreed.

Archbishop Gadecki said that he had urged Pope Francis, in a memorandum, to revise his approach to the war, and feared that Vatican diplomacy was returning to its “old line”, focusing on ties with Moscow at the expense of Eastern and Central Europe.

“The Vatican’s attitude to Russia should change and show greater maturity, since the former and present approach seems extremely naïve and utopian,” the Polish Archbishop said. Poland has taken in 3.41 million Ukrainian refugees since Russia’s invasion.

“To put it mildly, the Holy See should be more careful, knowing from the experience of Central and Eastern European countries that lying is second nature to Russian diplomacy.”

Archbishop Gallagher told journalists that Pope Francis remained in contact with Moscow through Russia’s embassy to the Holy See, and was willing to “do anything” to end Ukraine’s “suffering and martyrdom”.

At a news conference with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, Archbishop Gallagher said that his visit should demonstrate the Pope’s closeness to the Ukrainian people, “particularly in light of Russia’s aggression”, but warned that possibilities were limited for finding “immediate ways to end the senseless conflict”.

Speaking in Lviv, Archbishop Gallagher said that the Holy See was also “completely committed” to Ukraine’s territorial integrity, but that Pope Francis also had to “take into consideration all peoples at all times”, in line with his “universal mission”.

Criticism of Vatican diplomacy has grown since the Pope’s interview in early May with the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, in which he suggested that NATO had been co-responsible for the war by “barking at Russia’s door”, and questioned whether Western countries were right to supply Ukraine with weapons (News, 13 May).

The interview was criticised by the foreign ministries of Ukraine and Poland, as well as by a prominent Italian theologian, the Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto, the Most Revd Bruno Forte.

Speaking last weekend to the KAI agency, the head of Ukraine’s Greek Catholic Church, Major Archbishop Svietoslav Shevchuk, said that the Polish archbishops’ visit had been a “great support and deep sign of solidarity”, and that he also believed that the “belated reaction” of Vatican diplomacy had been a “catastrophe” when huge numbers of civilians faced death.

Pope Francis, who sent greetings on Tuesday to Patriarch Kirill of Russia on his name-day, with an “assurance of prayers” for his Church, warned at his General Audience on Wednesday against a “delusion of omniscience”, which “opens the door to aggressiveness by forces of evil . . . forces of a maddened reason, made cynical by an excess of ideology”, and which also fostered “ever more ruthless wars against defenceless people”.

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