It is not a holy war

Archbishop of Wellington Cardinal John Dew says Pope Francis is deeply concerned about the invasion being justified as a holy war.

In recent weeks, the Russia’s Patriarch Kirill has used religious language to justify his support for Russia’s military aggression.

Even Kirill’s own supporters are looking elsewhere, says Dew.

“The invasion has created new ecumenical tensions. As many as 160 Russian Orthodox parishes around the world have sought to join other communions as a result.”

Dew says New Zealand Church leaders, together with many others around the world, have written to Kirill expressing their “great concern about his religious justification for the war and asking him to use his influence in Moscow to bring it to an end”.

Kirill’s use of religious language to justify his support for Russia’s military aggression is failing to impress Pope Francis who recently rejected the idea put by the Patriarch Kirill that Russia’s Ukraine invasion is a “holy war”.

During his Sunday address and blessing, Francis continued his implicit criticism of Russia, calling the conflict in Ukraine an unjustified “senseless massacre”.

“The violent aggression against Ukraine is unfortunately not slowing down,” he told about 30,000 people in St Peter’s Square.

“It is a senseless massacre where every day slaughters and atrocities are being repeated,” Francis said in his latest strong condemnation of the war, which has so far avoided mentioning Russia by name.

“There is no justification for this,” he added.

Moscow says the action it launched on February 24 is a “special military operation” designed not to occupy territory but to demilitarise its neighbour and purge it what it sees as dangerous nationalists. Francis has already rejected that terminology.

“I beg all the players in the international community to truly commit themselves to stopping this repugnant war,” the pope said, drawing loud cheers and applause from the crowd.

“Even this week missiles and bombs hit civilians, the elderly, children and pregnant mothers,” he said.


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