Pope sparks anger after saying Ukraine should have the ‘courage of the white flag’ and negotiate

Pope Francis has sparked anger after saying Ukraine should have the “courage of the white flag” and negotiate to end the war with Russia.

In an interview with Swiss broadcaster Radio Télévision Suisse (RTS) published on Saturday, Francis was asked whether he thinks negotiations would “legitimize the stronger party.”

“That is one interpretation,” he replied. “But I believe that the stronger one is the one who sees the situation, who thinks of the people, who has the courage of the white flag, to negotiate.” The pope added, “and today, negotiations are possible with the help of international powers.”

The comments brought a swift response from Kyiv, which has seen tens of thousands killed and is seeking to recapture all its territory seized by Russia.

“Our flag is a yellow and blue one. This is the flag by which we live, die, and prevail. We shall never raise any other flags,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a post on social media Sunday.

“The strongest is the one who, in the battle between good and evil, stands on the side of good rather than attempting to put them on the same footing and call it ‘negotiations’,” he said.

Speaking to Ukrainians in New York on Saturday, the Father and Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, His Beatitude Sviatoslav, said “Ukraine is wounded, but unconquered” and that no one is thinking about making concessions.

“I want to tell you one thing from the people of Ukraine,” Father Sviatoslav said, according to a statement from the Greek Catholic Church. “Ukraine is exhausted, but it is standing and will stand! Believe me, no one even thinks of surrender, even in the places where fighting is ongoing today,” he said.

Later on Saturday, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, clarified to journalists the pope’s comments, saying “the Pope picked up the image of the white flag, proposed by the interviewer, to indicate a cessation of hostilities, a truce reached with the courage of negotiation,” and not surrender as some may have interpreted his remarks, Vatican News reported.

Other European leaders also condemned Francis’s comments.

“How about, for balance, encouraging Putin to have the courage to withdraw his army from Ukraine,” Poland’s Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski said Sunday in a post on X. “Peace would immediately ensue without the need for negotiations.”

“My Sunday morning take: One must not capitulate in [the] face of evil, one must fight it and defeat it, so that the evil raises the white flag and capitulates,” Latvia’s President Edgars Rinkēvičs said in a post on X.

Alexandra Valkenburg, the head of the EU delegation to the Holy See, said on X on Sunday that “Russia started an illegal and unjustified war against Ukraine two years ago” and Russia “can end this war immediately” by respecting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

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