Pope Francis came under fire after he urged Russian youth not to give up their “legacy as the heirs of the great, enlightened Russian Empire.” Although the head of the Catholic Church also advocated peace, his remarks praising Russia’s imperialist past caused more of a stir. Politico reports.
“Never give up this heritage, you are the heirs of great Russia, go forward,” Pope Francis addressed young Russians who gathered on Friday at the All-Russian meeting of Catholic youth in St. Petersburg.
In his speech, a sample of which was published online, the Pope also mentioned the former Russian emperors Peter I and Catherine II, two monarchs who played a key role in expanding Russian conquests in Europe and are known as symbols of Russian imperialism. “You are the heirs of the great Mother Russia: the great Russia of saints, tsars, the great Russia of Peter the Great, Catherine II, this great enlightened Russian Empire, great culture and great humanity,” he said.
The Pope’s comments sparked outrage online, with many criticizing the Pope’s decision to praise Russia’s imperialist past, especially in light of the Kremlin’s ongoing war in Ukraine.
According to Senator Pavel Fischer, the situation in Russia is extremely difficult. “For this reason alone, the Pope should value his words and support those who oppose Russian crimes in Russia. Nobody else will do it for him. Here he spoke almost like the Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, who is an accomplice of Putin. Sad,” He wrote in the social network H.
In his address to young Christians in Russia, Pope Francis glorified de facto Russian imperialism, with which Putin advocates a war against Ukraine. Talking today about “heirs of the great Mother Russia” or about “conflicts and polarizations that come from all sides and poison our world” is…
— Pavel Fischer (@PavelFischer)
August 29, 2023
However, in the rest of his address, posted online by the Vatican, the Pope calls on Russian youth to be “masters of peace” and “sow the seeds of reconciliation.”
Pope Francis has repeatedly criticized the Russian invasion of Ukraine and called for an end to the conflict. However, he also made several controversial statements, apparently blaming NATO for the conflict and refusing to denounce Putin by name.