The Pope has confessed he didn’t choose his words well after receiving backlash, mainly from Ukrainians, for calling Russia a “Great Empire.”
Pope Francis addressed the controversy surrounding his comments on Russia, acknowledging that his words were poorly phrased.
The Pope clarified that his intention was to praise Russia’s cultural heritage, not promote political agendas, as perceived by some.
Speaking to reporters during his return from Mongolia, Pope Francis apologized to Ukrainians who believed that he was praising Russia’s political power.
“Great Russian Empire.”
Pope Francis dismissed the notion that his comments alluded to imperialism, emphasizing his admiration for Russian culture as he talked about the “Great Russian Empire.”
The Pope continued, “Maybe it wasn’t the best way of putting it, but in speaking of the great Russia, I was thinking not so much geographically but culturally.”
The Pope assured angry Ukrainians that his mention of past Russian leaders Peter I and Catherine II was a cultural reference, not a political endorsement when he praised them for “Expanding Russia.”
Admiration of Culture
Pope Francis delved into his personal connection to Russian culture, citing his school studies and admiration for literary giant Fyodor Dostoevsky.
The Pontiff expressed his desire to bridge divides, reassuring China that the Catholic Church harbors no ulterior motives and should not be seen as a foreign power.
The Pontiff praised the beauty and profundity of Russian culture, asserting that current political issues should not overshadow it, “Russian culture is of such beauty, such profoundness. It should not be canceled because of political problems.”
Complex Relationship With China
Pope Francis spoke about the complex relationship between the Vatican and China during his discussion with reporters.
Pope Francis addressed China’s policy of “Sinicisation” of religion, the act of making religion more Chinese and reducing foreign influence.
Pope Francis expressed respect for China and its people, emphasizing the need for a harmonious relationship between the Church and Chinese culture.
Looking to the Future
Catholics from Vietnam, whose relations with the Vatican have improved recently, travel to Mongolia to see the Pope and express their desire for his visit to Vietnam.
When asked about a potential visit to Vietnam, Pope Francis jokingly speculated on a future pope’s name and hinted at the possibility of a papal trip, “If I don’t go surely John XXIV will go.”
The Pope, who now uses a wheelchair and cane, reflected on the challenges of travel compared to the early years of his papacy, “Travelling is not as easy as it was at the beginning,” he admitted.
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / giulio napolitano