Pope Francis: I understand the feelings of the Ukrainians
Pope Francis gave a lengthy press conference on the flight back from Mexico to Rome on Thursday, among others sharing thoughts on the Church in Ukraine and Patriach Sviatoslav reaction on the joint declaration signed in Cuba.
Pope said he understood these fears, expressed by Greek Catholic Archbishop Sviatoslav Schevchuk, adding that he is entitled to his own ideas regarding the conflict in Ukraine. It’s important to take the comments in context, the Pope insists, since Archbishop Schevchuk also describes the encounter as “a good thing” which he hopes will lead to further dialogue.
Please find the full translation of the Holy Father's answer about the meeting and the Ukrainian Catholics reaction:
Pope Francis: [Conversation with Kirill] of two hours in which we conversed as brothers, sincerely, and no one knows what was said, only that which we said at the end, publicly, regarding that which we sought to accomplish during the discussion. Thirdly: that article, those declarations in Ukraine. When I read this, I was a little worried, because Sviatoslav Shevchuk said that the Ukrainian people, or some Ukrainians, or many Ukrainians feel profoundly saddened and betrayed.
First of all, I know Sviatoslav well: in Buenos Aires we worked together. When he was elected (at the age of 42, a fine man!) Major Archbishop, he returned to Buenos Aires to collect his things. He came to see me and gave me an icon – a small one – of the Virgin Tenderness, and said to me: “This accompanied me throughout my life: I want to leave it with you, because you accompanied me in these four years”. It is one of the few things that I brought with me from Buenos Aires and I keep in on my desk. He is a man that I respect and am close with; we call eachother “tu” (the familiar form) So it seemed a little strange to me.
And I remembered something he had said to you [the press]: to understand a news item, a declaration, you need to find the hermeneutic of "all." [You need to look at when he [Sviatodlav] said this. It was said in a declaration on 14 of February last, Sunday, last Sunday. And interview that he did with Father… I don't remember, a Ukrainian priest; in Ukraine, and published. That news - the interview is two-and-a-half pages, more or less - that news is a small thing in the third paragraph from the end.
I read the interview, and I will say this: Shevchuk - this is the dogmatic part - declares himself a son of the Church, in communion with the Bishop of Rome, with the Church; he speaks of the Pope and closeness with the Pope, and of him, of his faith, and also of the orthodox faith. No problem with the dogmatic part, it's orthodox in the best sense of the word, that is, Catholic belief. Then, as in every interview, as in this one for example, everyone has the right to add their thoughts. And he did not question the meeting [with Kirill], because about the meeting he said: “It is a good thing and we must move forward”, but in the second part, where the personal ideas are expressed. As an example, I said about bishops who move around pedophile priests, that the best that they can do is to resign. This is one thing… it's not dogmatic, but it's what I think.
And thus [Sviatoslav] also has his personal ideas that are his opinion, and he has the right to have them. All of his comments are about the Declaration. About the meeting itself, he said: “This the Lord's work, the Spirit that moves forward, the embrace…”: this is all good.
And the Declaration? The Declaration is debatable.
And there is something else to add: that Ukraine is in a time of war, of suffering, with many interpretations. I mentioned the Ukrainian people, asking for prayers and expressing my closeness many times, whether at the Angelus or in the Wednesday Audiences.
But the historical fact of a war… experienced, everyone has their own thoughts about it. what is this war? who stared it? how is is carried out? how is it not carried out?… It is obvious that this is an historical problem, but also an existential problem of that Country, and speaks of suffering.
And this is where I insert that paragraph [about Ukrainian's hurt feelings], I will add this: what the [Ukrainian] faithful are saying can be understood… because Sviatoslav said: “Many faithful contacted me or wrote, saying that they are profoundly hurt and betrayed by Rome”. It is understandable that a people in that situation feel this way. The Declaration is an opinion, its an opinion on this question of Ukraine, but it also says that the war should stop and an agreement should be reached. Personally, I also said that the Minsk Accords should be put into practice, so that the elbow doesn't not erase that which has been written by the hand. The Church of Rome, the Pope has always said: “Seek peace”.
I received both presidents [Russia and Ukraine] equally. And thus, when he expresses that which he hears from his people, I understand him, I do. But that is not the key item. The key is the whole interview. If you read the whole interview, you see that there are serious dogmatic things: there is a desire for unity, do move forward, an ecumenical sentiment – he is an ecumenical person… And there are also certain opinions… He wrote to me when he found out about the trip, the meeting, but as a brother, giving his opinions as a brother…
I am not displeased by the interview as it is.
I am not sorry in the sense that we must respect the freedom of each side to have their opinion in this difficult situation. And from Rome… At this moment, the Nuncio is at the frontier zone [Donbas] where the fighting is, helping the soldiers, the wounded. The Church of Rome has sent much help there, much help. And it always seeks peace, respecting the accords; that the Minsk Accords be respected….
This is the whole picture. But we must not be alarmed by one phrase [of Sviatoslav]: this is a lesson, that one item of news must be interpreted according to the hermeneutic of the whole, not of a part.