Why Vatican policy is so strange: crusades, world wars, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine

Авторка: Марта Дика
Why Vatican policy is so strange: crusades, world wars, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine

Theocratic monarchy Vatican City is the world center of the Catholic Church. It is difficult to overestimate the role of religion in social life, as well as the role of the clergy, and the pontiff in particular, in political discourse. However, the Holy See did not always choose the correct rhetoric and support the side of good in war. Why the Vatican's policy during the Russian-Ukrainian war is strange - read in the new material of Svidomi.

The Crusades

The campaigns which were intended to convert infidels and spread Christianity were military campaigns aimed at exterminating Muslims and pagans. Only during the so-called "cleansing of Jerusalem" in 1099 — the First Crusade — 70 thousand Muslims died.

Crusades took place under the protectorate of the Popes, and some participants were even granted indulgences by the pontiff — a remission of punishment for sins committed during their lifetime. Therefore, it caused arbitrariness and anarchy, because the crusaders believed that after death they would not be punished for their deeds.

World War I

The war period was difficult for the whole of Europe. The pontificate found itself in almost complete isolation, and Benedict XV, who was elected 3 months after the start of the war, faced many challenges. However, he went down in history as a peacemaker — he was even called the Apostle of Peace. From the very beginning of his papacy, he strongly called for an end to the "senseless slaughter" and "suicide of civilized Europe."

During his reign, Vatican diplomacy promoted reconciliation, and the Pope made concrete proposals to the conflicting parties to help resolve the conflict. To help the victims of the war, the Pontiff ordered the sale of part of the Vatican's jewels, starting the Church's humanitarian activities.

Benedict XV became the author of the encyclical "Ad beatissimi Apostolorum", in which he emphasized the responsibility for peace and emphasized the avoidance of tragedies that provoke conflict. The pontiff believed that "this is a call for justice since justice and peace are always nearby. And that's why an "unjust" peace can only bring war."

Benedict XV was quite a pro-Ukrainian Pope. He recognized the independence of the Ukrainian People's Republic and established diplomatic relations with it. In addition, he appreciated Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytskyi, to whom he gave wide powers in spreading the ideas of the Union in Eastern Europe. In 1919–1920, he accepted a Ukrainian mission led by Count Mykhailo Tyshkevych and sent Father Giovanni Genocchi to help the Ukrainian People's Republic.

World War II

Over time, the Vatican's rhetoric changed, becoming more politicized and engaged. The pontiffs understood that their words weighted society, but they tried to lobby for their interests and gain benefits.

In 1939, Pius XII became the new Pope. He is still called "Hitler's Pope", and the Vatican has only recently made public the archives of World War II.

The Vatican also proposed so-called "peace talks" to resolve the war. The Pope communicated with the Italian dictator Mussolini, and later proposed such negotiations for the whole of Europe. Pius XII negotiated with the Nazis and made concessions with the German authorities, offering to give them Gdańsk. The pontiff was more favorable to the Nazis than his predecessor, who openly condemned the policies of the Third Reich and believed that the Nazi ideology negated Christian values. At the same time, the Pontiff refused to meet with Hitler during his visit to Rome, demonstratively leaving the city.

The Nazis saw the church as their competitor and a possible "defection" of followers of the idea, so in 1933, 6 years before the start of the war, the representative of the Vatican in Germany signed an agreement, according to which the Catholic Church was given some freedom of action in Germany, but political Catholic organizations were banned.

Sometime later, during the war, the Pope met several times with Hitler's intermediary Philipp of Hesse, and later held negotiations with the Third Reich's foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, until 1941. The Pope publicly condemned communism and the Soviet communist regime but was silent on the actions of Nazi Germany.

Such rhetoric was driven by fear. The Pope was afraid of angering the Germans, so as not to cause even greater numbers of victims: "All our public statements must be carefully weighed in the interests of the victims so that we do not worsen their situation." Yes, the Catholic Church saved many Jews fleeing the regime but it also "saved" Nazi criminals from justice.

Russo-Ukrainian war

Pope Francis combines two roles: the head of the Catholic Church and a politician, so Ukrainians expected active condemnation of the Russian Federation's actions and full support for Ukraine. However, it turned out differently.

In 2013, after the election of Francis as Pope, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church His Beatitude Sviatoslav noted that "the newly elected Pope knows very well about our Church and spirituality." Francis mentioned Ukraine in his prayers, and also raised the issue of the war during his sermons.

However, after February 24, the Vatican's rhetoric shifted from support for Ukraine and condemnation of the Russian Federation to calls for peace. The Vatican suggested that the state become a mediator in negotiations between countries.

On March 27, Pope Francis consecrated Russia, Ukraine, and the whole world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This act was symbolic but caused a contradiction with other statements of the Pope. In one of his subsequent interviews, the pontiff noted that "here [in the war — editor’s note] there is no metaphysical good and evil abstractly. It turns out to be something global, with very intertwined elements." In this way, the pontiff and the Holy See avoid responsibility and do not call things by their proper names.

On the 100th day of the war, Pope Francis called for unity: "Nations are fighting and killing each other, people are being driven from their homes instead of coming closer." At the same time, during the meeting with Myroslav Marynovych, the pontiff said that Ukraine has the right to defend itself, because "the people, like an individual, have the right to self-defense, otherwise it could resemble a suicide."

It is difficult to understand the real rhetoric of the Pope from the entire array of political statements of the Vatican. Most likely, the Holy See is trying to remain neutral. This is caused by the fear of losing parishioners and public trust. Also, the Vatican is afraid of Russian propaganda which could discredit the Catholic Church. In addition, it is difficult to balance politics and religion without violating church canons and maintaining a socially acceptable position on events.