Pope Francis stirs controversy by urging Ukraine to show the “courage of the white flag” and negotiate

Pope Francis has ignited controversy with his remarks suggesting that Ukraine should display the “courage of the white flag” and engage in negotiations with Russia to end the ongoing conflict.

In an interview with Swiss broadcaster Radiotelevisione svizzera di lingua italiana (RSI) published on Saturday, Pope Francis was asked about the legitimacy of negotiations with the stronger party. He responded by emphasizing the importance of considering the situation and prioritizing the well-being of the people, advocating for the courage to pursue negotiations. He also noted the possibility of international mediation facilitating these negotiations.

The remarks drew a swift response from Kyiv, with Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba asserting that Ukraine’s flag is a symbol of their resilience and determination, emphasizing that they would never raise any other flag. He emphasized the importance of standing on the side of good in the battle between good and evil, rather than equating both sides in negotiations.

Meanwhile, Father Sviatoslav, the Father and Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, conveyed a message of resilience and determination among the Ukrainian people, asserting that despite being wounded, Ukraine remains unconquered, and surrender is not even a consideration amidst ongoing conflict.

Matteo Bruni, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, later clarified the Pope’s comments, explaining that the reference to the white flag was intended to signify a cessation of hostilities through negotiation, rather than surrender. However, this clarification did not quell criticism from other European leaders.

Poland’s Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski criticized the Pope’s remarks, suggesting that instead of encouraging negotiations, efforts should be focused on pressuring Russia to withdraw its army from Ukraine, which would lead to immediate peace. Similarly, Latvia’s President Edgars Rinkēvičs emphasized the importance of fighting against evil rather than capitulating to it.

Alexandra Valkenburg, the head of the EU delegation to the Holy See, reiterated the EU’s stance against Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine, emphasizing that Russia has the power to end the war immediately by respecting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Pope Francis’s comments have ignited debate and condemnation from various quarters, highlighting the complexities and sensitivities surrounding the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

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