The pope has also often warned of the reckless risk of using nuclear weapons and the uncontrollable global consequences that would result, a clear reference to statements by Mr Putin suggesting the use of nuclear weapons was a possibility.
For months after the February 24 invasion, the pope seemed to be walking a fine line. He carefully avoided naming Mr Putin, or even Russia itself, as the aggressor, even as he called for an end to violence and raised his voice against “unacceptable armed aggression” and the “barbarity of killing children”.
His neutrality, however, earned him criticism from Ukraine, notably when he claimed that Daria Dugina, a 29-year-old Russian ultranationalist close to Mr Putin who had supported the invasion, had been murdered in August. Francis called her an “innocent” victim.
“The madness of war”, said François at the time. “The innocent pay for war—the innocent! Let us reflect on this reality and say to ourselves: “War is madness”.
The Ukrainian foreign minister summoned the Vatican’s ambassador to Ukraine to express his “deep disappointment”.
After that, Francis changed tactics. On August 30, the Vatican declared for the first time that Russia was the aggressor in the war, strongly condemning the invasion of Moscow.
“As for the large-scale war in Ukraine, initiated by the Russian Federation, the interventions of the Holy Father Pope Francis are clear and unequivocal in condemning it as morally unjust, unacceptable, barbaric, senseless, repugnant and sacrilegious”, the Vatican said. in the statement.
During the first month of the conflict, the pope had also avoided criticizing the main religious supporter and apologist for the war, Patriarch Cyril of the Russian Orthodox Church. His stance changed in May, when he warned Kirill not to “turn himself into Putin’s altar boy”, and urged him to work for peace instead.