Pope Francis discusses health but again refuses to name Putin as aggressor of Ukraine


ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (RNS) – Acknowledging that his health is “a bit temperamental” after visibly limping during his weekend visit to Malta, Pope Francis spoke freely to reporters during the usual impromptu press conference on his flight home, but again failed to mention Russian President Vladimir Putin by name condemning the war in Ukraine.

The 85-year-old pope struggled at times during his apostolic visit to the Mediterranean island nation of Malta on April 2-3, where he addressed migration, the war in Ukraine and corruption.

“I have this issue with my knee which is creating problems in terms of walking,” Francis said, calling the issue “irritating but getting better.” The Pope joked that “we don’t know how the game will end”, regarding his health.

The pope has had to cancel events and trips in the past due to knee pain from sciatica, and in July last year he underwent surgery for colon diverticulitis. While he seemed to struggle at times, this weekend’s trip saw Francis take ferries, dive into caves and greet the people of Malta wherever he went.

Doctors have encouraged the pontiff not to overwork his knee, but the pontiff has a busy schedule with visits to South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo and a possible visit to Ukraine, or one of its borders, to cope with the deteriorating situation there.

“I am ready to do whatever I have to do,” the pope said, referring to the possibility of visiting Kyiv. The Mayor of Kyiv and President Volodymyr Zelensky have invited the Pope to visit the country as a messenger of peace.

“A trip to Ukraine is one of the proposals we have received, but I don’t know if it’s practical,” Francis said, mentioning that he sent papal chaplain Cardinal Konrad Krajewskii to Poland. to promote the Pope’s closeness to refugees fleeing the country.

Francis also said he was considering a meeting in the Middle East with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, who has been criticized for his closeness to the Kremlin and his spiritual justifications for the war in Ukraine.

“Every war is born out of injustice, always,” Francis said, referring to his conversation with Kirill last month, in which he dismissed the possibility that the invasion would meet the Catholic Church’s criteria for a war. fair, adding that Catholic doctrine has developed. beyond the concept.

The pope said Vatican diplomats are “doing everything” to help improve the situation in Ukraine, which has been under attack from Russia since February 24.

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While Francis has used strong language to condemn the war, calling it “inhumane” and “sacrilege”, and has called a “potentate” responsible for the conflict, he has so far avoided calling Putin out. his name or Russia as the aggressor. . At Sunday’s press conference, the pope again refused to point fingers, instead lamenting the “logic of war” that leads to conflict and the accumulation of weapons.

“The logic of war has imposed itself once again,” Francis said. “We cannot imagine any other logic because we are not used to thinking in terms of the logic of peace.”

Francis spoke twice by telephone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and once with Kirill. He said he hadn’t spoken to Putin since the two men exchanged New Year’s greetings. On February 25, Francis visited the Russian ambassador to the Holy See, whom he described during the press conference “as a representative of the people”.

On the plane, the pope again lamented the failure of the aspirations for peace born of the end of the Second World War. “Sixty years later, we have forgotten the lessons,” Francis said, mentioning the many young people who have died in war throughout history. “Youth doesn’t matter. It makes me think and hurts me,” the pope said at the end of the press conference. “May God have mercy on us, on all of us. We are all guilty.

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