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‘All War Is Anachronistic’: Pope Francis Struggles to Gain Traction for Peaceful Vision

Francis has criticized the sale and distribution of weapons to Ukraine and condemned the economic sanctions that the West quickly enforced on Russia. “All war is anachronistic in this world and at this level of civilization,” the pope told La Nacion.

Francis has repeatedly condemned the cycle of violence, which he refers to as “the spirit of Cain,” referring to the biblical figure who murdered his own brother.

Vatican diplomats have long regarded the world as multipolar, not entrenched into two major camps. What makes this pope’s diplomatic style unique, Gaetan said, is his emphasis on dialogue and humility.

Francis sees humility as a precondition “to sit down at the negotiation table with empathy, listening to the other side and eventually having the mercy to forgive each other, in order to overcome the egotistical tensions of conflict,” Gaetan said.

A new Ipsos survey of people in 27 Western countries shows conflicting opinions on economic sanctions against Russia, with only 48% in favor of adding more sanctions, hinting that while Francis remains a somewhat isolated voice among political leaders, many share his views.

Those who want to see Francis demonize Putin along with other Western leaders recall John Paul II’s antipathy for Communist Party leaders in his native Poland. But John Paul II’s role in bringing an end to the Cold War arose from his relationship with both President Ronald Reagan and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

“A really big difference is that John Paul II had this really nice relationship with Gorbachev,” said Paul Kengor, a political science professor and author of “A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century.”

According to Kengor, what allowed John Paul II to mediate between Reagan and Gorbachev was that “the three were committed to avoiding conflict, military conflict above everything else.”

“You don’t have anything like that right now with Francis, Biden and Putin,” he added.

John Paul II and Gorbachev floated the idea of meeting in Moscow, and it was the Orthodox Church in the country that posed an obstacle to the event, Kengor said, and the rivalry between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Vatican has posed a limit to the possibility of building peace.

Francis’ hope earlier in the war to meet with Kirill seems to have met a dead end. After being the first pope to sit down with a Russian patriarch during a 2016 meeting at the airport in Havana, Cuba, Francis has watched powerlessly as Kirill strongly supported Putin’s plans. The Ukrainian war has seemingly ruined any hope of a rapprochement between the two churches.

Francis said in the interview that his relationship with Kirill “is very good” but that a scheduled second meeting in Jerusalem “between the two at this time could lead to much confusion.”

According to Gaetan, the lack of a meeting between Kirill and the pope represents “quasi-victory for those who are opposed to peace,” but added that you won’t hear Francis say it’s not possible.

“If Pope Francis were to shut the door toward Putin or Kirill” Gaetan said, “he would be just like any other world leader, refusing to meet with the other.”

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