Ukrainian leaders angered by papal praise for Russian empire
August 28, 2023
CWN Editor's Note: Ukrainian leaders have reacted angrily to remarks in which Pope Francis praised Russian rulers of the 18th century who absorbed Ukrainian territory into their empire.
In a video message to young Russians on August 25 (see separate CWN news brief) the Pope praised the Russian emperors Peter the Great and Catherine the Great, and their rule over a “great, enlightened empire of great culture and humanity.”
A spokesman for Ukraine’s foreign ministry said the Pope’s remarks were “imperialist propaganda,” and masked “Russia’s chronic aggressiveness.” Oleg Nikolenko said that the Pope should instead have encouraged young Russians to recognize “the destructive course of the current Russian leadership.”
Ukrainian Catholic Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk agreed, saying that the Russian rulers extolled by the Pope represented “the worst example of extreme Russian imperialism and nationalism.” He expressed his concern that the Pope’s words would be interpreted as encouragement for Russian aggression today.
The Ukrainian prelate said that he would voice his disappointment in a coming meeting with the Pontiff.
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