The leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has stated that the ongoing war in Ukraine, along with other conflicts around the globe, means ‘World War III has been declared.’
The Pope noted that the human race has seen three world wars in a century. This, he said, is a ‘calamity’ for humanity.
Pope Francis also noted that Russian President, Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was ‘perhaps in some way provoked’ by NATO.
Daily Mail reports that the cleric, who denied being ‘pro-Putin,’ said Russian troops were brutal, cruel and ferocious.
He, however, praised the bravery of Ukrainian soldiers who have been fighting for their country’s survival since the invasion began in February.
He also decried Russia’s ‘monstrous’ use of mercenaries from Chechnya and Syria – which have been drafted in by the Kremlin to bolster its faltering war efforts – and criticised the global arms trade.
This revelation was made in the text of a conversation he had last month with editors of Jesuit media and published on Tuesday, saying that the situation was not black and white.
He said, “We see what is happening now in Ukraine in a certain way because it is closer to us and pricks our sensibilities more.
“But there are other countries far away – think of some parts of Africa, northern Nigeria, northern Congo – where war is ongoing and nobody cares. Think of Rwanda 25 years ago. Think of Myanmar and the Rohingya. The world is at war.
“A few years ago, it occurred to me to say that we are experiencing a third world war fought piecemeal. Today, for me, World War III has been declared,’ he said, according to the transcript of the conversation, published in English by Vatican News.
“This is something that should give us pause for thought. What is happening to humanity that has had three world wars in a century? I experienced the first war through the memory of my grandfather on the Piave River.
“Then the second and now the third. And this is bad for humanity, a calamity. You have to think that in a century there have been three world wars, with all the arms trade behind it!” the Pope said in his comments last month.
While condemning “the ferocity, the cruelty of Russian troops”, Pope Francis said the world must not forget the real problems if it wants them to be solved.
“It is also true that the Russians thought it would all be over in a week. But they miscalculated. They encountered a brave people, a people who are struggling to survive and who have a history of struggle,” he said.
“This is what moves us: to see such heroism. I would really like to emphasize this point, the heroism of the Ukrainian people. What is before our eyes is a situation of world war, global interests, arms sales and geopolitical appropriation, which is martyring a heroic people,” he said.
According to the report, Francis said that several months before President Putin sent his forces into Ukraine, the pontiff had met with a head of state who expressed concern that NATO was ‘barking at the gates of Russia’ in a way that could lead to war.
“We do not see the whole drama unfolding behind this war, which was perhaps somehow either provoked or not prevented,” he also noted.
Asking himself rhetorically if that made him ‘pro-Putin,’ he said: “No, I am not. It would be simplistic and wrong to say such a thing. I am simply opposed to reducing complexity to distinction between good and bad.”
In his comments, Francis also noted Russia’s ‘monstrous’ use of Chechen and Syrian mercenaries in Ukraine.
“What we are seeing is the brutality and ferocity with which this war is being carried out by the troops, generally mercenaries, used by the Russians,” he said. “In reality, the Russians prefer to send forward Chechens, Syrians, mercenaries.”
“I hoped to meet Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill at an inter-religious event in Kazakhstan in September.”
The two had been due to meet in Jerusalem in June but that trip was cancelled because of the war.
Kirill, who is close to Putin, has given the war in Ukraine his full-throated backing. Francis said last month that Kirill could not become ‘Putin’s altar boy’, prompting a protest from the Russian Orthodox Church.
In the conversation with the Jesuits, Francis said he had told Kirill during a video call in March: ‘Brother, we are not clerics of the state, we are pastors of the people’.
In another message published on Tuesday, Francis said the invasion of Ukraine is a violation of a country’s right to self-determination.
The pope spoke of the war in Ukraine in a message for the Roman Catholic Church’s World Day of the Poor, which will be marked in November.