Pope Francis Blames NATO

The Catholic leader can’t seem to condemn Russia’s invasion.

Pope Francis in Vatican city on April 30.

Photo: vincenzo pinto/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Shortly after America’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, Pope Francis quoted former German Chancellor Angela Merkel while the 20-year war: “It is necessary to put an end to the irresponsible policy of intervening from outside and building democracy in other countries, ignoring the traditions of the peoples.”

The problem is that the Pope was quoting Vladimir Putin, not Mrs. Merkel. That gaffe came to mind when an Italian best casino sites 0spaper an interview with the Pope Tuesday.

Francis suggested that perhaps “NATO barking at Russia’s gate” had caused Mr. Putin to invade his neighbor, which doesn’t belong to the alliance. “I have no way of telling whether his rage has been provoked,” he continued. “but I suspect it was maybe facilitated by the West’s attitude.” Asked whether it was right to send weapons so Ukraine can defend itself, the Pope said, “I don’t know,” before criticizing the global arms trade.

Since the invasion, Francis has called for an end to the war and criticized the violence, but he hasn’t directly called out Russia for starting the conflict. Now that he finally speaks, he blames NATO for accepting members that want to avoid being invaded by Russia. What a terrible moral signal to send to dictators.

The Pope said he has requested an audience with Mr. Putin but hasn’t heard back. Asked whether he’d visit Kyiv, he said he must go to Moscow first: “If Putin decided to leave the door open . . . ” This is a pattern. Recall that the Pope declined to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in 2020, at least partly because of America’s opposition to the Vatican’s egregious deal-making with the Chinese Communist Party.

This isn’t about whether the Vatican aligns perfectly with the West or the U.S. Pope John Paul II was a vociferous critic of the 2003 Iraq War but kept the respect of those who remembered his opposition to Soviet imperialism. Consistency matters.

The Pope is the spiritual leader of more than one billion Catholics, but the moral authority behind the papacy—damaged as it is—can still transcend religion from time to time. This makes Francis’s equivocating on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine all the more frustrating for those who recall how powerful a force for good a Pope can be.

Main Street (12/07/20): Hong Kong’s Jimmy Lai goes to jail—and Pope Francis says nothing. Images: Reuters/Zuma Press Composite: Mark Kelly

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Appeared in the May 4, 2022, print edition.