Why would Putin care what the Pope says or does?

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Why would Putin care what the Pope says or does?

War weariness is real. And it’s not limited to the troops fighting on the battlefield. When a war is drawn out for too long, even those following at a distance risk becoming numb to the horrors they witness daily on their newsfeeds. The scenes of death and devastation can end up having little or no effect. Worse still, they can start to seem like some surreal video game. 

That’s why it’s so important to keep calling out the Russian invasion of Ukraine for what it is. To keep reminding ourselves that each and every one of the women, children and men who have died, had a name; that many of the 12 million Ukrainians who’ve been forced to leave their homes, did so with little more than the clothes they had on their backs.    

'Please, please, let us not become accustomed to war. Let us all make a commitment to shout out for peace, from our balconies and in the streets. Peace!'

35. That’s the number of times, so far, Pope Francis has condemned the war in Ukraine and called for a peace solution. And even if he still doesn’t mention Vladimir Putin by name, it’s clear he strongly disapproves of the Russian President’s attempts to manipulate religious sentiment by harnessing the Russian Orthodox Church to his belligerent and catastrophic cause. 

The fact the Pope recently ruled out any imminent meeting with Patriarch Kirill is bad news for Putin. The leader of the Russian Orthodox Church is one of the President’s most ardent supporters, but he too is being ostracised and marginalised by many other Church leaders globally. As Kirill’s moral authority is undermined, any perceived justification for Putin's aggression in Ukraine is diminished along with it. 

Why would the Russian President care? Well, he cared enough to want this photo opportunity with Pope Saint John Paul II… and this one with Pope Benedict XVI. So perhaps he does recognise that religion plays an important role in determining right and wrong. Especially when it comes to waging war on innocent people.     

'It is evident that religions do not want war. On the contrary, they unmask those who sanctify violence'.

The role of religion isn’t only to condemn war. It’s to work concretely to construct peace. And “unmasking those who sanctify violence”, whether you name them or not, can often be an extremely effective first step.

 Sean Patrick 

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