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Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki on Ukraine, Pope Francis and love for enemies

13.11.2022, 09:05
Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki - фото 1
Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki
Photo source: CREDO
Recently, the Ukrainian information space has systematically expressed outrage with the statements of individuals on whose understanding and support in connection with a full-scale Russian attack Ukraine is counting. Thus, rejection and misunderstanding in Ukrainian society caused a number of statements and omissions regarding the war in Ukraine on the part of Pope Francis. Recently, Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzyicki was also put on the "list" in connection with some controversial statements in an interview with the Italian newspaper Avvenire.

Source: CREDO

Today, Metropolitan Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki agreed to talk and share his thoughts on the possible reasons why the Holy Father avoided calling the aggressor by his first name and why he used such a term as humanism, describing the people whose majority supported the attack on Ukraine. As well as love for enemies, love for Ukraine, the conditions of forgiveness, the probability of reconciliation, the language issue and the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine.

“At the beginning of the war, Ukrainians were outraged by the fact that the Apostolic See, and in particular Pope Francis, for a long time avoided calling the aggressor and attacker by name. Some believe that the Vatican has taken a neutral stance. Others call it Vatican diplomacy. There is a version that this is required by certain international protocols. How would you comment on this stance of the Vatican?”

“This stance of the Apostolic See is not something new, something that appeared under Pope Francis. Similarly, the previous popes expressed themselves: St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI, or their predecessors. However, speaking on the topic of war, the pontiffs spoke in such a way that the world community knew who the aggressor was. For example, Pope Pius XII also did not mention Hitler's name. This was dictated, among other things, by the statement of the episcopate of Holland, to which the Nazis responded with mass repression. For example, many Catholics were arrested after this statement, including Saint Teresa Benedict of the Cross (Edith Stein). Therefore, Pius XII spoke cautiously, but from his speeches, it is clear that the Third Reich is behind the millions of victims. I believe Pope Francis acted similarly at the beginning of the full-scale invasion. When visiting the Russian embassy, the pontiff gestured to the main person responsible for this war.”

“And how do you personally interpret what is happening now in Ukraine?”

“This is a cruel and unfair war unleashed by the Russian Federation against Ukraine. This is a war in which Ukrainians fight for freedom and the right to live a peaceful life in their own country.”

"I can't help but recall your interview for the Italian magazine "Avvenire". Some of the theses voiced in this conversation sounded rather contradictory and caused misunderstanding among Ukrainian readers. Are you ready to comment on them in any way?”

“Yes, of course.”

“I think that the greatest indignation was caused by the fragment of the interview in which you agree with the journalist that the Russian language is inscribed in the DNA of half of Ukrainians.”

“I have to admit that it was my mistake, and I want to apologize for it. I understood the journalist's question very simply as a generalization of the fact that many Ukrainian internally displaced persons speak Russian because they came from the east of Ukraine, where most of the residents are Russian-speaking. I should have asked Mr. Giacomo Gambassi what exactly he meant.”

“The language issue is a sensitive one, especially now. What is your personal opinion on the place of the Russian language in Ukrainian society?”

“I am confident that discussions on the two official languages are inappropriate. In Ukraine, the official language should be Ukrainian. This is obvious and non-negotiable. And when I gave Switzerland as an example, I meant rather language tolerance within one country, and not that Russian should be the second official language. No way. But at the everyday level, citizens can communicate in the language that they know from childhood and in which they want to communicate. This right is enshrined in every democratic country. Surely, today Russian is the language of the aggressor and occupier, it is painful for many to hear it, just as after World War II, it was painful for poles to hear German, but no one forbade it, not even the state of Israel. I think that it is better to make efforts to popularize the Ukrainian language and culture, to create appropriate conditions for its study, than to ban Russian.”

“Switzerland, as an example of tolerance to different languages within the country, is it a reproach that Ukraine is not tolerant enough in the language issue?”

“The fact that Western Ukraine accepts internally displaced persons, most of whom speak Russian, and provides them with comprehensive support and assistance, actually indicates a very high level of tolerance. But war greatly sharpens the perception. I understand the indignation and hostility of many people toward everything Russian. I also talked about this in an interview for Avvenire. I understand them, but as a bishop and a pastor, I want to speak not from the point of view of human wounds or human experience but from the point of view of the Gospel. Our Lord has called us not so much to tolerance as to love. This is a step further. Jesus did not say to tolerate your enemies. He said, love your enemies. And the category "enemies" for Ukrainians today has a specific name – Russian aggressors.”

“But how can we love those who came to kill us, torture us, destroy everything in their path?”

"This is impossible from the human perspective. No one can fulfill this commandment without God's Grace.”

“What exactly do you need to do to receive this grace to fulfill the commandment "Love your enemies"?

“To love is to wish a person well. The greatest good for a person is his salvation. And salvation is impossible without repentance and conversion. To love enemies, in our particular case, the Russian aggressors is to pray for their repentance and conversion. So that they may cease to sow death and desolation and turn to the Lord God and answer for all the wrongs they have committed.”

“Another painful issue for Ukrainian society is the activities of the Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) in Ukraine.”

“For many believers and priests of the UOC-MP, the current situation is very difficult. Many of them understand what is happening, and I know that their hierarchs have blessed their faithful to defend Ukraine in the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine with weapons in their hands. But, unfortunately, there are also facts of cooperation with the occupiers of individuals, both among the faithful and among the clergy. I think such cases should be considered separately to avoid generalization. Despite this, banning a church that includes several million people can be dangerous. Here you need a very reasonable and balanced approach.”

“I cannot ignore the recent statement of Pope Francis, in which he spoke approvingly about the humanism of the Russian people, about Dostoevsky, as an example of this humanism. This had the effect of an information bomb. What is your opinion on this?”

“I understand the position of the Holy Father when he tries to avoid accusing an entire nation of war. Yes, we know that according to statistics, the majority of Russians support Russia's armed aggression against Ukraine, but complicity in this is individual. We also know that a part of society does not support this war. Unfortunately, this is a small part of society. But I think the Holy Father is trying to find some keys in this way, opening the doors of human hearts, so he cites, as an example, authors who are close to that people. Of course, such a figure as Fyodor Dostoevsky was formed by his time and mentality. It is difficult to agree with many of his views. At the same time, he is still considered a classic of world literature. Pope John Paul II liked to read Dostoevsky, but this did not prevent him from loving and supporting Ukraine.”

“I would also ask, do you personally consider the Russian people a "great people"?”

“I think the Russian people were trapped in illusions about their greatness. I believe this is a people with a long path of purification and repentance ahead of them.”

“After the Second World War, there was a meeting of two episcopates: German and Polish. This meeting was held under the slogan "We forgive and ask for forgiveness". Do you think a similar meeting between the bishops of Ukraine and Russia is possible in the future?”

“First, there was a letter from the Polish Bishops. The letter was signed during the Second Vatican Council, and one of the bishops who signed the letter at that time was Karol Wojtyla. It is worth noting that it was 1965, 20 years after the war. I emphasize this because it should be understood that immediately after the war, all the wounds it inflicted were fresh. Polish society gradually matured to this act. Forgiveness is very serious. You can't pretend to do that. And before it came to that, many Germans came to Poland to ask for forgiveness, visited Auschwitz.

Is such a meeting of the bishops of Ukraine and Russia possible? I think we should also grow mature enough for it, and we should pray. That is why we, the bishops of the Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine, want to declare next year the Year of God's Mercy - the time of reflection on this mystery, which is forgiveness. Let us ask the Lord to slowly prepare our hearts for forgiveness.”

“Your service to Ukraine began 15 years ago, and 14 years ago, you headed the Metropolia of Lviv. Have you been able to love Ukraine over the years?”

“I loved Ukraine. This land has always been close to me, and I want to remain faithful to my service to the Church in Ukraine.”