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Seven Pictures of the Invasion of Ukraine

Antonio Spadaro, SJ - La Civiltà Cattolica - Wed, Aug 17th 2022


When Pope Francis spoke for the first time of the Church as a “field hospital after a battle,”[1] he had in mind what he terms a “piecemeal world war.” In his Easter 2022 Urbi et Orbi message, he listed a few of these “pieces”: Ukraine, Jerusalem, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Sahel, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa. He had done the same previously, but the map is destined to always be incomplete.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is thus the latest tragic piece of a bloody puzzle. The poor people are the ones who pay the price, as always. After the Angelus of February 27, 2022, the pope said: “Those who make war forget humanity. They do not start from the people; they do not look at the concrete life of the people, but put partisan interests and power before everything.” Therefore, “they distance themselves from the ordinary people, who want peace and are the true victims in every conflict. They pay for the follies of war in their own skin. I think of the elderly, of those at this moment who are seeking refuge, of mothers fleeing with their children…”

We see the war in the form of its images, the stories told by so many journalists who, as Francis himself said, are there “to guarantee information” and “put their lives at risk,” allowing us “to be close to the drama of that population.”

In this reflection we will see, between lights and shadows, some pictures in a kind of sacrilegious gallery, which is this war: pieces of a puzzle in which political and religious leaders interact.

First picture: empire and war

It is to history that Vladimir Putin has appealed throughout the quagmire of an invasion that Pope Francis has called cruel, senseless and barbaric. A senseless war because, at least apparently, it is devoid of strategy.  If  Russia “wins,” it could lose the very next day, finding itself managing an embarrassing “aftermath,” that is, the unacceptable occupation of a vast and heavily populated land. This happened to France and its involvement in the Algerian war between 1954 and 1962, and beyond. We are talking about a conflict that its initiators, since the beginning, seem not to have reckoned with the heroic resistance of those under attack, supported by the mobilization of many countries, with an objective difficulty in the field. This is a war that was predictable, foreseen by some analysts, and which, therefore, perhaps, could have been avoided.

There is and must be no doubt about the greatness of Russian culture and spirituality. The temptation to “embargo” the works of the great Russian authors, painters and composers, has been as strong as it has been short-sighted. It would be like not reading Goethe or Hölderlin because of Hitler, an embargo on intelligence. Russia’s political greatness, on the other hand, went into decline in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. This led the Russian leadership to shape a new narrative, that of the “Russian world,” uniting all the Rus as part of a single political reality: Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. President Putin, in his address to the Russian nation on February 21, 2022, made this clear: “Ukraine is not just a neighboring country for us. It is an inalienable part of our own history, our own culture, our own spiritual space.” When politics speaks under the guise of spirituality, it creates dangerous short circuits.

The imperial narrative has been well nurtured, for example, by a thinker like Alexandr Dugin, dubbed President Putin’s ideologue, who on March 19 on Facebook – banned in Russia – chose to write in English, and thus to the world: “Russia in Ukraine will restore order, justice, prosperity and decent standards of life.” Why? This is his answer: “Russia is the only Slavic state that was able to become a world empire, that is, an absolutely sovereign power. To build the world empire is our task; we do know how to do it. That is why we are Rome.” The goal is apocalyptic: to overthrow “the omnipotence of the Harlot of Babylon. We can never ever quit the patterns of sacred history,” Dugin concluded, attributing to the building of the Russian empire the traits of sacredness. He envisages a new Holy Roman Empire with moral connotations, capable of shaping a worldview that conflicts with modernity and the Enlightenment. Hence there are connections with a certain conservatism in the United States that has never hidden their sympathies for President Putin and for Russian Orthodoxy. This, then, is the Russia that faced the abyss of war.

Yet, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman[2] of the Department of External Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, in a January 29 radio broadcast on the Russia 24 channel, had expressed concern about what was happening. After recalling that “in America, in Ukraine and in Russia there are politicians who believe that war is the right decision in this situation,” he listed the reasons why he said he was “deeply convinced that war is not a method for solving accumulated political problems.”[3] In another broadcast he evoked Rasputin, who had warned the Tsar that “if Russia entered the war, it would threaten the whole country with catastrophic consequences,” leading not only to the loss of part of the Russian lands, but also of “Russia as such.”[4] Strong words, it must be admitted, and little known.

However, it should not be forgotten that pre-revolutionary Russia knew well how to describe its wars against the liberal ideas and movements of central Europe in terms of solemn, grandiose and universal principles. Post-revolutionary Russia was also able to do so, following the principles – with their universal application – of the Communist Party. Today, however, there are no strong philosophical doctrines that are truly convincing and “mystical,” capable of supporting a universal mission of Russian nationalism. The fear of an intellectual and ideological shift of “pieces” of the empire – the “Russian world” – toward the West and its values, a movement considered inadmissible, has nevertheless remained alive. The Ukrainian uprising in Maidan Square in February 2014 was understood by Russians as part of this movement. The only real reservoir of the imagery of the desired Russian political and cultural hegemony remains the great Christian Orthodox spiritual tradition, from which the imperial vision has drawn its lifeblood.

Second picture: throne and altar

It was March 18 when President Putin appeared at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow to great applause and made a brief speech. This involved a change of approach from the icy and distant image he has projected in this conflict, to the point of placing seven meters of distance between himself and some of his international interlocutors.

March 18, 2022, was the eighth anniversary of the annexation of the Crimea, but above all the date of birth of Fyodor Fyodorovich Ushakov, a historical figure and supposedly invincible admiral of the Tsarist era, proclaimed a saint by the Russian Orthodox Church in 2001. The symbolic meaning is clear: the current war would be under the protection of a warrior saint, who, among other things, in 2005 was declared the patron saint of nuclear bombers. So the mind goes back to 2007, when Putin, in a press conference, said: “Both the traditional faiths of the Russian Federation and Russia’s nuclear shield are two things that strengthen Russian statehood and create the necessary conditions for ensuring the country’s internal and external security.”[5] Christian faith and nuclear bombs thus  appear tragically connected in the service of the state and its “security.”

At the beginning of March, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow spoke of this invasion as “a struggle that has not physical but metaphysical significance.”[6] He thus projected the political military offensive onto the scenario of an apocalyptic struggle, a final clash between good and evil. The divine thus risks being the ideal projection of constituted power. The nation is the “chosen people,” and faith sets itself against those who do not belong to it, that is, the “enemy” and the dissident. This military appeal to apocalypse always justifies the power wanted by a god. It is typical, for example, of jihadism, but also of the forms of neo-Crusader supremacism recently seen in the United States.[7]

In a later speech, the Patriarch denied Russian aggression in Ukraine: “We do not want to fight anyone. Russia has never attacked anyone. It is surprising that a large and powerful country has never attacked anyone; it has only defended its borders.”[8]

On the other hand, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, in office from June 2014 to May 2019, was not far from this theologico-political pattern when he launched the slogan “Army, language and faith.” In December 2018, on the day of the election of Epiphanius as primate of the new autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the “imperial” chair next to the altar in the cathedral of St. Sophia was reserved for Poroshenko. The religious engine of national self-consciousness had begun. Four days later, Michael Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State, congratulated the Ukrainians, stressing the need to guarantee their religious freedom “without outside influence.”

Third picture: pietas and potestas

In this context, the pontiff chose to make a humble and clearly prophetic gesture, in order to refute this perverse logic. He consecrated Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  His gesture would be in continuity with that of Pius XII in 1942, during the Second World War.

To understand this humble gesture of consecration, it would be useful to take a step back in time when Francis, in a provocatively evangelical manner, in 2014 called the Islamic terrorists, in an expression dense with both condemnation and compassion, “poor criminal people.” The enemy – even the terrorist! – remains “a prodigal son,” and never the incarnation of the devil. He also made the truly singular affirmation whereby stopping the unjust aggressor is a “right,” but must be formulated as a “right of the aggressor,” which is the paradoxical right “to be stopped so as not to do harm.”[9] In fact, the typical love of the Christian is not only for the “neighbor,” but also for the “enemy.”

When we come to look at a person who commits a horrific act, in the light of some form of pietas, the intimate power of Christ’s Gospel triumphs in a scandalous way: love for the enemy. Without this, the Gospel would risk becoming an edifying discourse, certainly not a revolutionary one.

This was the message of the Ukrainian Bishops’ Conference, which asked at the beginning of the conflict – in scandalously evangelical fashion – to pray for the Ukrainian rulers and all those defending the homeland, but also “for those who started the war and were blinded by aggression. Let us protect our hearts from hatred and anger against our enemies. Christ gives a clear instruction to pray for them and bless them.”[10] This message seems to have been lost after three months of a war we could not have imagined.

This is why to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, with whom he spoke as a brother in a March 16 videoconference, Francis said that “the Church must not use the language of politics, but the language of Jesus,”[11] which is that of reconciliation, peace and love.

Yes, of love. It was Putin in the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow who said these words: “No one has greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” These are the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John (15:13) here used to justify an invasion and hatred. However, the tribal conception of religion and friendship is the opposite of the Gospel, which is instead based on “love your enemies” (Matt 5:43). The rhetoric of power and violence in a religious context is blasphemous because it appeals to God in order to corrupt God’s identity, which is love.

We have also seen that U.S. President Biden has not renounced religious rhetoric, quoting Saint John Paul II in Warsaw: “Do not be afraid!” But he forgot the second part of that appeal: “Open, open wide the doors to Christ!” The rhetoric that risks short-circuiting Christ, freedom and NATO is not Christian. Religious discourse should never be twisted into political discourse. Religiously motivated communicative escalation consists in annexing theological terms to justify power and conflict. Instead, “how sad it is, when people and peoples proud to be Christians see others as enemies and think of making war on each other!” said Francis. The sacred is never a prop of power. Power is never a prop of the sacred.

The pope has always resisted the allure of making Christianity a political guarantee, whatever that may be. He saved Christianity from the temptation to remain heir to the Roman Empire or to Byzantium. That temptation with nationalistic traits to project those empires into any military alliance of the good against the bad appears at times irresistible. Political potestas and spiritual auctoritas must always be clearly  distinguished: that is the strength of the universality of Catholicism. The white habit of the pontiff brings Christianity back to Christ, who in front of those who wanted to defend him with the sword shouted “Enough!” twice. Francis no longer even wears red, the imperial color and expression of the imitatio imperii of the bishop of Rome.

Fourth picture: ecumenism and nationalism

The Ukrainian tragedy is therefore also a Christian tragedy. For this reason it is necessary to keep the door of ecumenical dialogue wide open, in order to influence the political future of a reconciliation between two peoples, which is as distant as it is necessary.

Francis and Kirill had met for the first time on February 12, 2016, in an airport lounge in Havana, Cuba. It was a historic meeting, a genuine first.[12] Even then, words were exchanged on the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. A second meeting would be desirable, sooner or later, but when conditions make it possible.

We must remember that since 2019 there are two important Orthodox Churches in Ukraine not in communion with each other: the one composed of those who identify with the Moscow Patriarchate, and the Church whose autocephaly with its seat in Kyiv the Patriarch of Constantinople recognized in 2019. Autocephaly means the right to administer itself independently. The autocephalous Church does not recognize any ecclesial governing authority above its metropolitan, Epiphanius. With autocephaly an ecclesial split similar to the political one was in some way created, because it was inconceivable for the Russian Church to lose its ties with the Ukrainian territory where, moreover, it originated. Hence the break in communion with Constantinople, and hence with the Church led by Epiphanius.

The other Church, which had remained in communion with Moscow, is governed by Metropolitan Onofrius. However the Synod of this Church declared full independence and autonomy from Moscow on May 27, without joining the autocephalous Church. Epiphanius’ position on the war was very harsh: “Condemnation, curse and merciless punishment from the Almighty await the murderers because they love evil and darkness” (March 20, 2022).[13] The Metropolitan who was united with the Moscow See, Onofrius, had called for internal reconciliation: “For the sake of our army and our people, I ask you to forget mutual quarrels and misunderstandings and to unite with love for God and our Country.” Onofrius clearly supported, and continues to support, the state sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and on February 24 he also appealed to President Putin to stop the “fratricidal war”: “Vladimir Vladimirovich, do everything to end the war on Ukrainian soil!” he repeated. The Ukrainian and Russian peoples, he said, “have emerged from the baptismal font of the Dnepr, and the war between these peoples is a repetition of the sin of Cain, who killed his own brother out of envy.”[14]

For its part, the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, led by Major Archbishop Sviatoslav, signed a heartfelt appeal on February 24: “At this historic moment, the voice of our conscience calls us all united to defend the free, conciliar and independent Ukrainian state!”[15]

Within Russian Orthodoxy, a significant sign is to be noted: a group of about 300 priests and deacons has launched a strong appeal to all those on whom the end of the fratricidal war in Ukraine depends, asking for reconciliation and an immediate cessation of clashes. But tensions have also reached the point that some Ukrainians linked to Moscow – among them the Metropolitan of Sumy and Akhtyrka – have decided to stop naming Patriarch Kirill during liturgies. Several primates of  autocephalous Churches have also condemned the war, including John of Antioch, Theophilus of Jerusalem, Porphyry of Serbia and Neophytus of Bulgaria, who are known to be rather close to Moscow. The Ecumenical Council of Churches wrote a letter to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, asking him to raise his voice so that the war would be stopped.

As we well understand, one face of nationalism is the religious one. Even the expulsion of the Russian Orthodox Church from the Ecumenical Council of Churches has been proposed.[16] That would do nothing other than crush that Church even more under the spurious dynamics of political power.

The real problem is that, if the Churches renounced their dialogue in communion – however feeble and not very relevant – they would surrender to nationalism, expressing positions mirroring (perhaps in a higher and more spiritual fashion) those of the various governments.[17] It would be a return to colonialism, which demanded that the Churches should trace their borders with their confessional divisions. It would be the death of ecumenism.

The true common position should be that of the Gospel, the common Christian witness, the work for peace, justice and reconciliation. The desire for Francis to visit Kyiv is also beautiful, but the visit would make sense only if the pope’s presence could become an opportunity for reconciliation – as happened in Bangui, an outcome he has desired also for Juba, South Sudan – and not for further suspicions and divisions.

Fifth picture: the Way of the Cross

Objections were raised about Pope Francis’ idea of having a Ukrainian woman and a Russian woman carry the cross at the 13th Station of the Cross at the Colosseum. Together. The Ukrainian ambassador to the Holy See said in a tweet that his diplomatic representation “understands and shares the general concern in Ukraine and many other communities.”

How could this gesture be considered “scandalous?” The aggressor and the aggrieved are both combined by Francis in the same prayer, just as happened with the consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He uses the language of Jesus. What is this language? “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous” (Matt 5:44-45). Francis acts according to the evangelical spirit, which is one of reconciliation, even against all visible hope during this war of aggression. He stated, in a tweet, “The Lord does not divide us into good and bad, into friends and enemies. For Him we are all beloved children.” All brothers then. All sons and daughters. Hence the cry “Stop!” addressed to all parties.

Two women, Albina and Irina, carried the cross on Good Friday. They did not say a single word. There was not even a request for forgiveness or anything like that. Not a word. They were  under the cross while carrying it. Scandalously together. Theirs was a prophetic sign while the darkness was and still is thick. Their being together, daughters of God and sisters in a war that made them enemies, was a prayer to God to give us the grace of reconciliation. Their presence together was a prayer to ask, not for a premature utopia, but for a grace which, according to the pope, only God can give. Prophecy wedges itself into the hearts and shadows of history, making it explode from within like the resurrection. A world in which there can only be friends or enemies in front of the cross, and not brothers and sisters, would only reveal the irrelevance of the God of Jesus Christ, taking us back to an archaic theological model of  justice without mercy.

The Way of the Cross is a rite that reconstructs and commemorates the painful journey of Jesus on his way to the crucifixion. In the rite, pain is represented, introjected, elaborated, assumed in Christ’s wounds and falls. Evoking reconciliation in the darkness of pain saves the innocence of peoples, of “ordinary people, who want peace.”

The sign was misunderstood by many in Ukraine. President Zelensky himself, in an interview with Bruno Vespa, said: “We are very grateful to Pope Francis and we trust him, but we cannot accept that image of two people walking side by side carrying the flags of Russia and Ukraine, because for us the Russian flag is synonymous with occupation; it is the flag under which they are killing us.” Of course this never happened; the two women were holding the bare cross, not two flags.

Francis, by placing together under the cross these two women who joined hands as they touched the bloody wood of the cross, has fulfilled his task as “Catholic,” that is, universal pastor. In this way he saves, in this difficult time, the catholicity of his faith and of his Church. He saves it from the quagmire of nationalisms and from the alliances between throne and altar or between parliaments and Churches. It is terrible and scandalous. But this is to preach the Gospel of Christ.

Sixth picture: the pope and diplomacy

The crueller the war, the more the river of tears and blood will run, the more tortuous the path of possible reconciliation will be. We never imagined that we would find ourselves with a war in the heart of Europe.

The Holy See had done its part long ago. Recall that the pontiff had met three times with Russian President Putin (2013, 2015 and 2019), once with Ukrainian President Poroshenko (2015) and once with his successor, President Zelensky (2020), whom he then spoke to on the phone twice during the conflict. In 2015 Francis had spoken with Putin about the situation regarding Ukraine, stating “that it is necessary to engage in a sincere and great effort to achieve peace.” They “agreed on the importance of reconstituting a climate of dialogue and that all parties should commit themselves to implementing the Minsk agreements.” In 2020, the talks with Zelensky had been dedicated – a communiqué from the time reads – “to the search for peace in the context of the conflict that, since 2014, is still afflicting Ukraine.” In this regard, the hope was shared that “all the parties involved demonstrate the utmost sensitivity to the needs of the population, the first victims of  violence, as well as commitment and consistency in dialogue.”

We now know that by receiving weapons Ukraine was preparing for a Russian attack. Why, instead, was the path of dialogue not pursued more insistently, and effective negotiations concluded  to avoid falling into the abyss of war, given that all the tensions were already well-known? The pontiff continued to say during the conflict: “Let negotiations be truly and decisively aimed at, and the humanitarian corridors kept  effective and safe.”

Francis does not try to eliminate evil, because he knows it is impossible. It would simply manifest itself elsewhere, in other forms. This is how it has always been. He seeks instead to neutralize it. It is therefore for this reason that, under a diplomatic profile, he assumes the responsibility for risky and misunderstood positions, to the point of finding himself alone like a voice crying out in the desert. Like, for that matter, Saint John Paul II at the time of the Gulf wars.

Vatican diplomacy looks at the present moment, but also toward the near future. In this sense it is clear in its condemnation, but intends to weave and sew, not cut. There must be no doubt about the clarity of the condemnation of the aggressor. Amongst the terms used by Francis were “unacceptable armed aggression,” “violent aggression against Ukraine,” “repugnant war,” “senseless massacre,” “invasion of Ukraine,” “barbarism,” and  “sacrilegious act.” However, popes do not attack religious or political leaders. Francis, like his predecessors, appeals for conflict resolution and condemns malign political or strategic actions and choices. This generates the false perception of a “neutralism” on the part of the pope, who knows that violence begets violence and victories beget defeats and unstable and fragile peace. It was the peace of Versailles that generated the Nazi monster. And how many times has Francis denounced the peace of Yalta?

The pontiff’s approach is based on the certainty that the empire of good is not given to this world. Therefore it is necessary to dialogue with everyone, really everyone. Let us recall, for example, that Francis did so even with General Min Aung Hlaing, head of the Myanmar army, responsible for the operations against his beloved Rohingya. Worldly power is thus definitively de-sacralized. And for that very reason no one is the devil incarnate.

Pius XI’s principle remains valid: “When it is a question of saving some souls, of preventing greater damage to souls, we would feel the courage to deal with the devil himself” (Address to the College of Mondragone, May 14, 1929).

On the other hand, “a pope who is unable to make himself understood by those who now wage war, how would he differ from the Secretary General of the United Nations?”[18]

The fact that the pope, in an entirely unprecedented gesture, visited the Russian ambassador to the Holy See in an attempt to stop the war is part of this diplomacy. There is also the fact of having sent two cardinals to the Ukraine – Czerny and Krajewski – and Archbishop Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States. He also called for a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Ukraine on Ash Wednesday, March 2, as he did for Syria on September 7, 2013. The pope also wanted a special recitation  of the Rosary for peace on May 31.

In general, Francis, like his predecessors, always works for reconciliation and for a stability that remains over time: he accompanies the processes so that there is a space for reconciliation, which currently, unfortunately, seems increasingly distant,  at least for the present generation. This is why the pope speaks clearly, saying that this is not a “military operation” – as Putin would like it to be called – but a real “war,” an “unacceptable armed aggression.”

Seventh picture: dominance and negotiation

What plan for bringing peace, coexistence and collective security in Europe and the world do we have in mind? Are we fully aware of the consequences  that war is likely to have on vast areas of Africa and Asia? Because of the scarcity of grain, of which Ukraine and Russia are the main global exporters, and the consequent serious food problems for millions of people, effects in terms of migratory pressure can be expected. What about the possible consequences of energy shortages? All the elements are there to “rock many political regimes around the world. It is hard to imagine that this will strengthen democracies.”[19]

Francis is radical in his approach to international politics, as he said in an audience in which he condemned military escalation and the arms race: “The world continues to be governed as a ‘chessboard,’ where the powerful study moves to extend dominance to the detriment of others.”[20] His view on war based on “new imperialisms,” as he stated in the press conference on his return from his trip to Malta, is equally clear.

What, then, is there to hope for? Archbishop Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States, who made a trip, May 18-12, to Ukraine,[21] has reiterated “the importance of dialogue to re-establish peace.” In an interview he admitted that “the wounds are deep” and that reconciliation will take a long time. But “faced with a war that continues, in the end it must be diplomacy that resolves things; the conflicting parties must come to the table to negotiate.” We must, therefore, “renew this commitment, to resolve the conflict through diplomatic and political dialogue.”

The central message conveyed  by the Italian Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, during his trip to the White House is interesting in this regard. At the beginning of his speech, which preceded the face-to-face meeting behind closed doors with the U.S. leader, he stressed that the war in Ukraine had made the United States’ bond with the whole of Europe even stronger. But he also said that “in Italy and Europe, right now, people are asking how to bring peace to Ukraine,” pointing out that “people want  this massacre, this carnage to end.”

Draghi addressed the central problem of how to rebuild balance and stability in the system of international relations. In the imperfect realism of the life of nations, this is the meaning of peace. To achieve the restoration of that balance, it is necessary to embark on a path of negotiation within an international framework. Putin must be confronted with the consequences of the breakdown of the system of balances built after the collapse of the USSR.

One must not, however, hope for the humiliation of Russia as a country. French President Emmanuel Macron, at the end of the meetings held in Strasbourg of the Conference on the Future of Europe, stated that when peace returns on European soil, we will have to build new security balances and “we will together  never give in to the temptation either of humiliation or of the spirit of revenge.” Macron recalled what happened with the Treaties of Versailles, signed after World War I, which “were marked by the humiliation of Germany.” So, peace will have to be built “with Ukraine and Russia around the table.”[22]

The history of the Second World War shows that it is impossible to build an international order with a humiliated power seeking revenge. One must instead desire a Russia[23] integrated into a European vision stretching from the Atlantic to the Urals, the one of which Saint John Paul II dreamed.

DOI: La Civiltà Cattolica, En. Ed. Vol. 6, no.6 art. 12, 0622: 10.32009/22072446.0622.12

[1].      Cf. A. Spadaro, “Intervista a Papa Francesco”, in Civ. Catt. 2013 III 449-477.

[2].      Translator’s  note: Fr. Spadaro’s observations were made shortly before Hilarion was replaced in this role.

[3]        .

[4]        .

[5]        .

[6]        .

[7].      Cf. A. Spadaro, “Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Fundamentalism. A surprising ecumenism”, in Civ. Catt. English Edition, July 2017,

[8]        .

[9] .     This expression was used by Francis in the meeting with refugees and disabled young people at the Latin Catholic Church of Bethany, May 24, 2014. Cf. also A. Spadaro, “La diplomazia di Francesco. La misericordia come processo politico”, in Civ. Catt. 2016 I 209-226; Id., “Francesco. Sfida all’apocalisse”, in Limes, No. 6, 2018.

[10]      .


[12].    Cf. “Il primo incontro tra il Vescovo di Roma e il Patriarca di Mosca”, in Civ. Catt. 2016 I 417-425.

[13].    Epiphanius’ statements can be found at

[14].    Onofrius’ statements can be found at

[15]. Sviatoslav’s statements can be found at

[16].     See

[17].    Cf. A. Melloni, “Le Chiese e la guerra: perché con il conflitto in Ucraina va in frantumi anche l’ecumenismo”, in la Repubblica, April 27, 2022.

[18].    L. Manconi, “Perché papa Francesco non deve andare a Kiev”, in La Stampa, April 21, 2022.

[19].    M. Magatti, “Disarmare Putin si può”, in Avvenire, April 12, 2022.

[20].     Francis, Address to participants at the meeting sponsored by the Italian Women’s Center, March 24, 2022.

[21].    He visited Lviv, Kyiv and other places, such as Bucha, Irpin, Vorzel. His days were full of meetings with religious leaders, institutional representatives – including the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba – people and groups of displaced persons.

[22]      .

[23].    A vision that, perhaps, even seemed to come across in the speech that the young Putin made in the Bundestag in the now very distant 2001, when he dreamed of “a home in which Europeans would not be divided into East or West, North or South,” even though he knew that those divisions would remain, “because we have never completely freed ourselves from many stereotypes and clichés of the Cold War”: cf. Today we do not know whether to read these words with sarcasm or nostalgia. What remains, however, is hope, which continues, in spite of everything, to serve as a warning for the near future.

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