Pope Francis on Wednesday compared the war in Ukraine to the “terrible Holodomor genocide” of the 1930s, when Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s policies caused a devastating famine in Ukraine.
The pope’s comparison of Moscow’s attacks on civilian targets in Ukraine with Stalin’s decision to starve millions in Ukraine represents one of his strongest condemnations yet of the Russian invasion.
“Let us pray for peace in the world and for an end to all conflict, with special attention to the terrible suffering of the dear and martyred people of Ukraine,” Pope Francis said during his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square. “And let us think of war-torn Ukraine.”
The pope then asked that people join Ukraine on Saturday to commemorate the “terrible genocide of the Holodomor, the extermination by starvation of 1932-33 artificially caused by Stalin.”
“Let’s pray for the victims of this genocide and let’s pray for all Ukrainians, the children, the women and the elderly, the babies who are suffering the martyrdom of aggression today,” he said.
Ukrainian historians argue that Stalin, as head of the Soviet Union, used a famine resulting from the forced collectivization of farms by the Soviets to crush Ukraine’s push for independence. The famine began in Kazakhstan and southern Russia, but was most devastating in Ukraine, where entire villages starved.
The pope has mentioned Ukrainian victims of the war martyrs in previous comments, but the comparison to the Holodomor turned out to be his strongest yet.
In the early months of the conflict, Francis maintained the Vatican’s long-standing policy of not taking sides, even though he deplored the violence, with the aim of facilitating a peace agreement.
Yet he has recently honed and honed his rhetoric. He has urged the faithful to pray for “martyred” Ukraine and has pleaded with Russia’s President Vladimir V. Putin to stop the “spiral of violence and death”.
The pope has also often warned of the reckless risk of using nuclear weapons and the uncontrollable global consequences it could have. A clear reference to Mr Putin’s statements suggesting that the use of nuclear weapons was a possibility.
Months after the February 24 invasion, the pope seemed to be walking a fine line. He scrupulously avoided naming Mr. Russia, or even Russia itself, as the aggressor, even as he called for an end to the violence and raised his voice against “unacceptable armed aggression” and the “barbarism of killing children”.
However, his neutrality drew criticism from Ukraine, especially when he said Daria Dugina, a 29-year-old Russian ultra-nationalist close to Putin who had supported the invasion, had been killed in August. Francis called her an “innocent” victim.
“The madness of war,” said Francis at the time. “The innocent pay for war – the innocent! Let’s think about this reality and say to each other, ‘War is madness.’”
Ukraine’s foreign minister summoned the Vatican’s ambassador to Ukraine to express “deep disappointment”.
Then Francis changed tack. On August 30, the Vatican said for the first time that Russia was the aggressor in the war and strongly condemned the invasion of Moscow.
“With regard to the large-scale war in Ukraine initiated by the Russian Federation, the interventions of the Holy Father Pope Francis are clear and unequivocal in condemning it as morally unjust, unacceptable, barbaric, senseless, abhorrent and sacrilegious,” the Vatican said. in the statement.
During the first month of the conflict, the pope had also avoided criticism of the war’s main religious supporter and apologist, Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church. His stance changed in May, when he warned Kirill “not to turn himself into Putin’s altar boy”, urging him to work for peace instead.
The post Pope Francis compares Russia’s war against Ukraine to a devastating famine in the Stalin era. first appeared in the New York Times.