The Vatican tries to tamp down an uproar that erupted after Pope Francis praised Russia’s imperialist past during a video conference with Russian Catholic youths, insisting that he never intended to encourage modern-day Russian aggression in Ukraine.
The Vatican spokesman, Matteo Bruni, says Francis merely wanted to praise the positive aspects of Russia’s spiritual and cultural history when he exalted Russia’s imperial rulers Peter and Catherine the Great, encouraged young people to remember that past and praised their way of “being Russian.”
Francis “certainly didn’t want to exalt imperialistic logic or government personalities, who were cited to indicate certain historic periods of reference,” Bruni says in a statement.
Francis delivered a prepared text in which he encouraged the young Russians to be “artisans of peace” and to sow reconciliation “in this winter of war.” But in his off-the-cuff remarks, Francis told the young Russians to always remember their past.
“Never forget your inheritance. You are the heirs of the great Russia. The great Russia of the saints, of the kings, of the great Russia of Peter the Great, of Catherine II, that great imperial Russia, cultivated, with so much culture and humanity,” Francis said, according to the video clip. “Never forget this inheritance. You are the heirs of the great Mother Russia, go forward. And thank you. Thank you for your way of being, for your way of being Russian.”