The pope’s praise for Russia’s historic empire draws sharp criticism.

In feedback made by video to Catholic youth in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Friday, Pope Francis praised 18th-century Russian rulers and the Great Russia they helped create — an empire that President Vladimir V. Putin has invoked in framing his invasion of Ukraine.

“Never forget the legacy,” Francis mentioned. “You are the heirs of great Russia: great Russia of saints, rulers, great Russia of Peter I, Catherine II, that empire — great, enlightened, of great culture and great humanity.”

The pope, who was ending his deal with on the closing of a convention targeted on the church’s younger members in St. Petersburg, had shifted from his ready remarks in Spanish to induce the viewers in Italian to maintain historical past in thoughts, in accordance with Reuters. The Vatican launched solely the ready remarks, however a clip circulated later by spiritual businesses confirmed him making the extra feedback.

While for the previous yr Francis has been persistently supportive of peace and the Ukrainians he has referred to as “martyrs” within the battle towards Russia’s invading forces, his feedback have been rapidly criticized in Ukraine and different nations close to Russia that was once a part of the Soviet Union.

“It is very unfortunate that Russian grand-state ideas, which, in fact, are the cause of Russia’s chronic aggression, knowingly or unknowingly, come from the Pope’s mouth,” Oleg Nikolenko, a spokesman for Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry, wrote on Facebook.

The former Estonian president, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, wrote on the X platform, beforehand often called Twitter, that the remarks have been “truly revolting.”

Mr. Putin — who final yr in contrast himself to Peter the Great — has over the previous 18 months used the concept of rebuilding the Russian empire to border the invasion of Ukraine, which was a Soviet state till 1991, when the usS.R. was dissolving. He has additionally portrayed the invasion as an effort “to put an end to the war that was unleashed by the West,” as he put it final week.

The pope’s prepared speech, launched in a Vatican bulletin that didn’t point out his last statements, revolved across the significance of younger individuals constructing bridges between generations.

“I invite you to be sowers, to sow seeds of reconciliation, tiny seeds that in this wintertime of war will not germinate for the moment on frozen ground, but in a future spring will flourish,” the Vatican transcript learn.

In the early months of the battle, Francis appeared to keep away from selecting sides and kept away from overtly criticizing the Russian president or the warfare’s chief spiritual backer, Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church. In May, after a video convention with Kirill, Francis modified course and warned Kirill to not “transform himself into Putin’s altar boy.”

On Monday, the Vatican issued an announcement saying that the pontiff by no means takes a political stance and that his phrases “are to be read as a voice raised in defense of human life and the values attached to it.”

It maintained that the pope at all times condemned a “morally unjust, unacceptable, barbaric, senseless, repugnant and sacrilegious” warfare.

A peace envoy despatched by the pope, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, has traveled to Ukraine, Russia and the United States to facilitate peace talks over the summer season.

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