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Pope Francis appeared to partly blame the West for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in an interview published this week, suggesting that the “barking of NATO at Russia’s door” may have forced Putin’s hand.
“An anger that I don’t know if you can say was provoked, but maybe facilitated,” the Pope told the Italian Corriere della Sera newspaper.
Francis also condemned the weapons industry and said the “arms trade is a scandal” that “few oppose.”
“I can’t answer, I’m too far away, to the question of whether it is right to supply the Ukrainians,” Francis said. “There are international interests in every bit. One cannot think that a free state can wage war on another free state. In Ukraine it was the others who created the conflict.”
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The Pope has so far declined to condemn Putin, though he has called for an end to the war and said this week that he wants to go to Moscow.
A June meeting between Francis and Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill in Jerusalem was called off recently over concerns that it would send an “ambiguous” signal, but the two did talk for 40 minutes over videoconference in March.
Francis said Kirill spent half of that March meeting reading off “all the justifications for the war” and said that Kirill must not “transform himself into Putin’s altar boy.”
The relationship between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church could be further strained by sanctions that were proposed Wednesday by the European Union on Kirill.
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Russian Orthodox Church spokesman Vladimir Legoyda suggested that sanctions would only delay peace.
“You have to be completely unaware of the history of our church to think that it’s possible to scare its clergy and believers by putting them on some kind of lists,” Legoyda said Wednesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.