Pope Francis has said he is considering a visit to Kyiv as he condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin for launching a “savage” war.
Speaking after his arrival in Malta, he delivered his most pointed and personalised denunciation yet of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Francis did not cite the Russian president by name, but the reference was clear when he said “some potentate” had unleashed the threat of nuclear war on the world in an “infantile and destructive aggression” under the guise of “anachronist claims of nationalistic interests”.
Once again, some potentate is provoking and fomenting conflicts, ordinary people sense the need to build a future that, will either be shared, or will not be at all. Now in the night of the war, let us not allow the dream of #peace to fade! #ApostolicJourney #Malta— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) April 2, 2022
“We had thought that invasions of other countries, savage street fighting and atomic threats were grim memories of a distant past,” Francis told Maltese officials and diplomats on the Mediterranean island nation at the start of a weekend visit.
Francis has so far avoided referring to Russia or Mr Putin by name, but Saturday’s personalisation of the powerful figure responsible marked a new level of outrage for the pontiff.
“Once again, some potentate, sadly caught up in anachronistic claims of nationalist interest, is provoking and fomenting conflicts, whereas ordinary people sense the need to build a future that will either be shared or not be at all,” he said.
The Vatican tends to not call out aggressors in hopes of keeping open options for dialogue.
The Vatican, which in recent years has forged unprecedented new relations with the Putin-allied Russian Orthodox Church, has offered itself as a potential mediator but has been largely left on the diplomatic sidelines.
Francis told reporters en route to Malta that a possible visit to Kyiv was “on the table”, but no dates have been set or a trip confirmed.
The mayor of the Ukrainian capital had invited Francis to come as a messenger of peace along with other religious figures.
Francis also said that the war has pained his heart so much that he sometimes forgets about the pain in his knees.
Francis has been suffering for months from a strained ligament in his right knee. The inflammation got so bad that the Vatican arranged for an elevator to get him on to and off the plane for Saturday’s flight to Malta.
The visit, originally scheduled for May 2020, was always supposed to focus on migration, given Malta’s role at the heart of Europe’s migration debate.
Speaking with Malta’s president by his side, Francis denounced the “sordid agreements” the European Union has made with Libya to turn back migrants and said Europe must show humanity in welcoming them.
He called for the Mediterranean to be a “theatre of solidarity, not the harbinger of a tragic shipwreck of civilisation”.