Pope Francis openly wept as he offered prayers for Ukraine, briefly breaking down during a traditional ceremony in central Rome to mark the immaculate conception.

 

What happened?

 

During the service on Thursday while addressing the statue of the Virgin Mary that stands on a column in Piazza di Spagna square, he said: "I would have liked to have brought to you today the thanksgiving of the Ukrainian people...”

 

He had to pause for a moment, his body shaking with emotion, at which point the audience broke into applause. He continued: "...of the Ukrainian people for the peace we have long been asking the Lord for.

 

"Instead," he said, his voice still shaking with emotion, "I still have to present to you the supplication of the children, of the elderly, of the fathers and mothers, of the young people of that tormented land."

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This isn’t the first time Pope Francis has commented on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, is it?

 

It isn’t, but it might be the first time he hasn’t said something wholly inappropriate.

 

In May of this year, Pope Francis said that NATO “barking” at Russia’s door “perhaps facilitated” the decision to invade.

 

The line echoed Kremlin propaganda that it was “provoked” into invading Ukraine by NATO’s actions but, since then, Putin himself acknowledged a month later it was an imperial war to “return” land he sees as Russian.

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So Pope Francis learned a lesson from that moment, right?

 

Alas, no. Despite Putin’s admission, just a few days later Pope Francis said the invasion was “perhaps somehow either provoked or not prevented.”

 

Is he actually a fan of Putin?

 

He claims not – in the same interview just mentioned above, he said: “Someone may say to me at this point: but you are pro-Putin! No, I am not.

 

“It would be simplistic and wrong to say such a thing. I am simply against reducing complexity to the distinction between good guys and bad guys, without reasoning about roots and interests, which are very complex.”

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But he would never show sympathy for people who openly called for Ukraine to be wiped off the map – that has to be a red line, surely?

 

You’d think so, but no. In August, a car bomb killed Darya Dugina, the daughter of a prominent Russian ultra-nationalist who had repeatedly called for the destruction of Ukraine.

 

Referring to her death, the Pope described her as an innocent victim of war and “that poor girl thrown in the air by a bomb under the seat of a car in Moscow.”

 

Ukraine’s ambassador to the Vatican said the Pope’s words were “disappointing.”

 

Oh wow. I’m scared to ask but is there anything else I should know about?

 

The Pope also managed to draw condemnation from the Kremlin when he appeared to suggest that the cruelest soldiers fighting for Russia are Muslims and Buddhists.

 

In an interview with America, a Jesuit magazine, published Nov. 28, he said: “When I speak about Ukraine, I speak about the cruelty because I have much information about the cruelty of the troops that come in.

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“Generally, the cruelest are perhaps those who are of Russia but are not of the Russian tradition, such as the Chechens, the Buryats and so on. Certainly, the one who invades is the Russian state. This is very clear.”

 

Chechnya is a predominantly Muslim country and the Republic of Buryatia in Siberia has a sizeable Buddhist population.

 

The Russian tradition the Pope speaks of is Christian, specifically Russian Orthodox.

  

Russian forces have been accused of committing thousands of war crimes during their invasion of Ukraine, the scope of which suggests they are not limited to certain groups within the country’s armed forces.

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