The Pope helped in the mediation of the exchange of prisoners between Russia and Ukraine, published this Thursday the magazine La Civiltà Cattolica of the Society of Jesus, underlining that Francis revealed his participation during the trip to Kazakhstan.
“Some Ukrainian envoys came to me. Among them, the vice-rector of the Catholic University of Ukraine, accompanied by the President’s adviser [ucraniano, Volodymyr Zelensky] for religious matters, an evangelical,” Francis explained during a meeting in Kazakhstan with 19 Jesuits who worked in the so-called “Russian region” of the Society of Jesus, transcribed by the magazine.
“We talked, we discussed. A military chief who deals with the exchange of prisoners also attended, always with President Zelensky’s religious adviser. This time, they brought me a list of more than 300 prisoners. [a situação]. I immediately called the Russian ambassador to see if anything could be done, if a prisoner exchange could be speeded up,” the Pope said.
Francis explained to the Jesuits that he wanted to keep the door to dialogue open from the very beginning of the conflict.
The Pope recalled that the day after the start of the war in Ukraine, on February 24, he went to the Russian embassy and told the ambassador that he would like to speak with the President [russo, Vladimir] Putin “as long as he left a small window for dialogue.”
Although the papal trip to Kiev is not excluded, because he “always has it in mind”, Francis added that “God’s will is not to go now, perhaps later”.
On the conflict started by Russia on February 24, Francis was categorical in the face of some criticism due to his appeals, without naming the aggressor.
“When a Ukrainian Catholic bishop came to visit me, I gave him a package with my statements on the matter. I defined the invasion of Ukraine as an unacceptable, disgusting, senseless, barbaric, sacrilegious aggression… Read all the statements!” stated.
“However, in order to face the conflict it is necessary to remain close to the victims, which should not prevent reflection,” he added.
The Pope also referred to the controversy due to his words about the death of Daria Duguina, daughter of Kremlin ideologue Alexander Duguin who died in an attack, “as a victim of the conflict”.
“Ordinary people in all conflicts are the real victims, who pay in their own skin for the follies of war. So I also referred to that young woman who flew through the air. At this moment, everything I said was forgotten and attention returned. just that reference. But I understand people’s reactions, because they are suffering a lot”, he clarified.
Francis reiterated that “there were international factors that contributed to provoking the war.”
The Pope recalled “that a head of state” told him in December 2021 that he “was very worried because NATO came to bark at Russia’s doors without understanding that Russians are imperial and fear insecurity at the borders”.
“He expressed fear that this would trigger a war, which happened after two months. Therefore, one cannot be simplistic in reasoning about the causes of conflict. I see imperialism in conflict. When they feel threatened and in decline, imperialisms react thinking that the solution is to start a war”, he argued.
For the Pope, it is a mistake to think that this is just a war between Russia and Ukraine, or that it is “a ‘cowboys’ film, in which there are good and bad”, rather than being a “world war”.
“There are those who say, for example, that the Spanish Civil War was made to prepare for World War II. I don’t know if that is really the case, but it could be. I have no doubt, however, that we are already living through World War III”, considered Francis.