Figuring out Pope Francis’ position on Russia’s war in Ukraine has been somewhat confusing – particularly for Ukrainians.

On Saturday, Sept. 23, the pope made comments that seemed critical of an announcement by Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki – who said that Warsaw would send no further arms to Ukraine due to a trade dispute.

“We should not play games with the martyrdom of this people. We have to help them resolve things… I see now that some countries are moving backwards, not wanting to give (Ukraine) arms. A process is starting in which the martyr certainly will be the Ukrainian people and that is an ugly thing,” the pope said in comments reported by Reuters.

The Pope had been on a plane returning from a trip to the French port city of Marseilles. He’d been asked by a reporter whether he was frustrated that his efforts to bring about peace had not succeeded. The Pope had sent an envoy, Italian Cardinal Matteo Zuppi to Kyiv, Moscow, Washington and Beijing to meet with leaders with this goal.


There was a similar translation of the pope’s words from AP News.

“I’ve seen now that some countries are pulling back and aren’t giving weapons. This will start a process where the martyrdom is the Ukrainian people, certainly. And this is bad.”

But, according to Reuters, in later comments on the same day, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni “said the pope was not taking a stand on whether countries should continue to send weapons to Ukraine or stop sending them.”

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Ukrainians to stay strong and not to allow daily Russian shelling to break their spirits.

“It was a reflection on the consequences of the arms industry: the pope, with a paradox, was saying that those who traffic in weapons never pay the consequences of their choices but leave them to be paid by people, like the Ukrainians, who have been martyred,” Bruni said.

While the pope is and has been critical of the arms industry – the quote from AP and Reuters seems to contradict Bruni’s later statement, as it’s reported.


Furthermore, according to a Sept. 16 report by Reuters, the pope has said that supplying weapons to Ukraine is morally acceptable for self-defense.

 “This is a political decision which can be moral – morally acceptable – if it is done under conditions of morality,” Pope Francis said, seeming to imply that in Ukraine’s case, it was. “Self-defense is not only licit but also an expression of love for the homeland. Someone who does not defend oneself, who does not defend something, does not love it. Those who defend (something) love it.”

In further comments, he said, “It can be immoral if the intention is provoking more war, or to sell arms or dump arms that (a country) no longer needs. The motivation is what in large part qualifies the morality of this action.”

But, what made things more confusing for Ukrainians, in a video message to young Catholic Russians on Aug. 25, the pontiff said that they should remember that they were “children of great Russia, of great saints, of kings, of Peter the Great, of Catherine II, of a Russian people of great culture and great humanity.”


This drew a reaction from Ukraine’s Eastern Rite Catholic bishops who said that the pope’s comments caused “pain, suffering” and “a certain disappointment” among Ukrainians.

The Ukrainian bishops said that the Kremlin welcomed the Pope’s remarks and said that they’d been “used by Russian propaganda to justify and support the murderous ideology of the ‘Russian world.’”

But the Pope said that this was not his intention.

“I want to assure you of my solidarity with you and constant prayerful closeness. I am with the Ukrainian people,” Pope Francis said in a statement after the meeting. “I wasn’t thinking about imperialism when I said that, I was talking about culture.”

With Pope Francis apparently critical of countries pulling back from providing Ukraine with weapons and then his spokesman, after, as reported, saying that the pope was only referring to how the weapons industry has benefitted from Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine – there has been fertile ground for confusion in Kyiv.

In a Tweet on the social media platform X for instance, People’s Deputy Kira Rudik, who heads the Holos political party, took the Pope’s comments to mean that he does not support military aid for Ukraine at all.


“Pope Francis’ stance about the war has always sounded weird. This time he told countries not to ‘play games’ with Ukraine on military aid. Any other ideas how to survive when you are attacked by armed to teeth russian terrorists?”

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