Vatican Reacts to Criticism from Pope’s ‘Mother Russia’ Comments

Vatican Reacts to Criticism from Pope’s ‘Mother Russia’ Comments: The Vatican has reacted to criticism of recent remarks made by Pope Francis regarding “mother Russia” which have been condemned as admiration for the nation’s imperialist past.

On Friday, the Pontiff was addressing the Catholic youth gathered in St. Petersburg via live video when he made the comment that Ukraine deemed “deeply regrettable.”

The Holy Father started by reading his prepared speech in Spanish but at the end, he switched to impromptu Italian and said: “Don’t forget (your) heredity. You are heirs of the great Russia – the great Russia of the saints, of kings, the great Russia of Peter the Great, of Catherine II, the great Russian empire, cultured, so much culture, so much humanity. You are the heirs of the great mother Russia. Go forward.”
The Pope’s words – published on the website of the Church of the Mother of God in Moscow – provoked protests and criticism from Ukraine as President Putin considers Peter the Great as an example to justify his invasion of the country.
Reacting to the comment, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church said the pontiff’s comments caused “great pain and concern.”
He added that the Pope’s references to Peter I and Catherine II were the “worst example of imperialism and extreme Russian nationalism.”
However, in an effort to provide explanation, the Vatican recently claimed that the Pope never intended to glorify imperialistic ideas
Vatican spokesman, Matteo Bruni, said the Pontiff only wanted to praise the positive aspects of Russia’s spiritual and cultural history to encourage the next generation to “preserve and promote” these positives.
“Certainly not to exalt imperialistic logics and governmental personalities, cited to indicate certain historical periods of reference” Bruni stated.
In an interview with the Premier Christian News, Joe Ronan from Catholic Voices said the Pope was seeking to build a connection with his Russian audience as he addressed youths on Friday.
“One of the titles of the Pope, of course, is pontiff, which means bridge builder. And I think to build bridges, you have to work from sort of both sides of the bank.”
Ronan also stressed that it is crucial not to take Pope’s words out of context. “If you just pick up the pieces where he’s talking about Russian history, you get quite a lopsided idea. A lot of what he was doing was saying to the youngsters that their way of being must be very different to everything else, they must be bridge builders, they must be there to preserve and to promote peace,” he said.
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