May 25, 2024

Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski and other lawmakers on Sunday snapped back at Pope Francis‘ controversial remarks that Ukraine should negotiate with Moscow after more than two years of war.

“How about encouraging [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to have the courage to withdraw his army from Ukraine as compensation? Then peace would return immediately without the need for negotiations,” Sikorski wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

The minister was responding to an interview with Francis by a Swiss public television broadcaster. A portion of the interview, which was recorded in early February, was released on Saturday, according to Vatican News, a website of the Holy See. The full interview is to air March 20.

Poland is one of the most committed political and military supporters of Ukraine as it fights to repel Russia’s full-scale invasion. A member of both the European Union and NATO, Poland has taken in almost 1 million refugees from its eastern neighbour.

“When you see that you are defeated, that things are not going well, it is necessary to have the courage to negotiate,” the pope said when asked about the war in Ukraine. He did not explicitly name Ukraine or Russia in his reply.

He went on to say that the strongest actor is the one that “thinks about the people and has the courage of the white flag, and negotiates.”

Talks should take place with the help of international powers, Francis said.

There were incensed reactions in other countries too.

In Germany, a defence specialist in the coalition government of Chancellor Olaf Scholz sharply contradicted Francis’ appeal for peace talks.

“Before the Ukrainian victims raise the white flag, the pope should loudly and unmistakably call on the brutal Russian perpetrators to take down their pirate flag – the symbol of death and Satan,” Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, the chairwoman of the German Parliament’s Defence Committee, told the Funke Mediengruppe newspapers on Sunday.

“And why in God’s name does he not condemn the verbal murderous incitement of Kyrill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church and ex-KGB agent, towards the Ukrainian people?” asked Strack-Zimmermann, who is a member of the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP).

She added: “As a Catholic, I am ashamed that he refrains from doing this.”

The pope’s appeal was also criticized by Germany’s Greens, also a member of the coalition.

“Nobody wants peace more than Ukraine,” Parliamentary Vice President Katrin Göring-Eckardt told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland editorial network (RND).

There has been war on Ukraine’s territory for 10 years and countless people have been killed, Göring-Eckardt said, adding: “It is Vladimir Putin who can end the war and the suffering immediately – not Ukraine. Anyone who demands that Ukraine simply surrender is giving the aggressor what he has illegally taken and is thus accepting the annihilation of Ukraine.”

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