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'Surrender means death': Ukrainian clergy reacts to Pope's statement

'Surrender means death': Ukrainian clergy reacts to Pope's statement Pope Francis (Getty Images)

The Ukrainian clergy reacted to Pope Francis's statement in support of Ukraine-Russia negotiations, finding the courage to raise the "white flag." Religious representatives state that Ukraine's capitulation is impossible because it would mean death for its people.

Sources: Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations (UCCRO).

Statement of the Permanent Synod of the UGCC

The bishops of the Permanent Synod of the UGCC, who gathered for a meeting in the US, made a statement on the recent Pope's words.

They talked about the scandal, noting they currently do not have the full version of the interview as its release is planned for March 20.

"In this regard, we would like to reflect not upon the Pope’s statement but upon the point of view of the victims of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It is important to understand the position of most Ukrainians," the statement says.

According to it, everyone living in Ukraine understands how much the country has suffered from Russian aggression, yet despite this, its people remain steadfast in their position.

"Ukrainians cannot surrender because surrender means death. The intentions of Putin and Russia are clear and explicit. The aims are not those of one individual: 70 % of the Russian population support the genocidal war against Ukraine, as does Patriarch Kirill and the Russian Orthodox Church. The expressed objectives are articulated in concrete actions," explain the bishops.

Putin is indifferent to religion

"In Putin’s mind, there is no such thing as Ukraine, Ukrainian history, language, and independent Ukrainian church life," the statement reads.

It notes that Russian aggression leads to the eradication of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, any independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and the suppression of other religions and all institutions and cultural expressions that do not support Russian hegemony.

"Ukrainians will continue to defend themselves. They feel they have no choice. Recent history has demonstrated that with Putin there will be no true negotiations," notes the Permanent Synod of the UGCC.

Budapest Memorandum is worthless

The bishops also say that in 1994 Ukraine negotiated away its nuclear arsenal, "at the time the third largest in the world, larger than that of France, the UK, and China combined." Instead, Ukraine received guarantees of security on its territorial integrity (including Crimea) and independence, "which Putin was obliged to respect."

"The 1994 Budapest memorandum signed by Russia, the US, and the UK is not worth the paper on which it was written. So it will be with any agreement 'negotiated' with Putin’s Russia," says the Permanent Synod of the UGCC.

Statement of the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations

Members of the UCCRO categorically stated in response to Pope Francis that "no one will ever force our people to capitulate."

"Ukraine is bleeding, but it stands for the Truth, for the right to be itself. Stands bravely and irresistibly," says the UCCRO.

The statement adds that if it were to capitulate, then Europe, perhaps the whole world, would immediately feel a "repetition of the crimes of Bucha and Irpin."

Surrendering is not about peace

Representatives of the clergy point out that "surrendering to the mercy of this enemy is not about peace."

"It is about the victory of slavery over freedom, darkness over light, about the supremacy of the law of force over the force of law. We have experienced this bitterly and repeatedly over the past centuries," they say.

The statement adds that to capitulate to the triumphant evil is tantamount to the collapse of the universal idea of justice, "a betrayal of the fundamental guidelines bequeathed to us in great spiritual traditions."

"Therefore, we bless and will bless our faithful for the defense of our country, we will pray for Victory over the enemy and a just peace, we will extend our hand to all people of good will who support Ukraine at this crucial time. We believe and know that we will never be alone in this," concludes the statement.

Scandalous statement of Pope Francis

Reuters published a fragment of an interview with Pope Francis for the Swiss television channel RSI the day before. In the interview, the pontiff, responding to a question about whether Ukraine should raise the "white flag" and negotiate with the Russian Federation, supported such a position.

The Vatican subsequently stated that Pope Francis did not mean Ukraine's capitulation. According to Matteo Bruni, the director of the Holy See press office, the pontiff spoke only about the need for negotiations.

However, the words of Pope Francis sparked a storm of criticism among Western leaders and politicians. The pontiff's statement was criticized, particularly in Latvia and Poland. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called on Pope Francis not to repeat the mistakes of the past and to support Ukraine.

The statement was also sharply condemned by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, saying that Russian murderers and torturers are not going further in Europe only because they are being held back by Ukrainians with weapons in their hands and under the blue and yellow flag.

Later, the government of Japan reacted to the scandalous statement by noting that Ukraine's will must be respected.