Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishops have met with Pope Francis and have told him that praising Russia's imperial past "hurt the Ukrainian people."
Details: His Holiness Pope Francis I held a private audience in the Vatican with bishops of the Synod of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) on the morning of 6 September.
It is reported that in a frank conversation, the UGCC bishops "expressed the pain, suffering, and a certain disappointment of the Ukrainian people".
At the initiative of Pope Francis, the meeting took place an hour sooner than planned initially, "so he could listen to them without rushing."
The head of the UGCC, His Beatitude Sviatoslav, said that "this meeting was a time of mutual listening and an opportunity for frank and sincere dialogue."
His Beatitude Sviatoslav stressed that in their conversation with the Pope, the bishops expressed everything that the faithful in Ukraine and around the world had instructed them to convey.
In particular, the bishops said that certain statements and gestures of "the Holy See and Your Holiness are painful and difficult for the Ukrainian people, who are currently bleeding in the struggle for their dignity and independence."
As the bishops explained to the Pope, Russian propaganda has used misunderstandings that have arisen between Ukraine and the Vatican since the beginning of the full-scale war in order to justify and support the ideology of the "Russian world", so Ukrainian worshippers are sensitive to the words of the Pope.
Recognising the discrepancy between his own words and the comparisons addressed to Russian youth, the Pope explained: "On my way back from Mongolia, during a conversation with journalists, I said that the real pain is when the cultural heritage of a people undergoes 'distillation' and is manipulated by certain state authorities, as a result of which it turns into an ideology that destroys and kills. The great tragedy is when such an ideology breaks into the Church and replaces the Gospel of Christ. "
He also acknowledged that "the fact that you doubted who the Pope stands with was particularly painful for the Ukrainian people. I want to assure you of my solidarity with you and constant prayerful closeness. I am standing with the Ukrainian people."
On 25 August, Pope Francis addressed the participants of the Tenth All-Russian Catholic Youth Day in St Petersburg.
In his speech, the pontiff said: "Never forget your heritage. You are the descendants of great Russia: the great Russia of saints and leaders, the great Russia of Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, that empire – a great, enlightened country of great culture and great humanity. Never give up this heritage. You are the descendants of the great Mother Russia, so go forward with it. And thank you – thank you for your way of being, for your way of being Russians."
Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed regret that Pope Francis is spreading the idea of Russia's grandeur, which the Kremlin uses to justify the killing of Ukrainians.
Earlier, in July, Pope Francis called on Russia to resume the Black Sea Grain Initiative, addressing "his brothers, the authorities of the Russian Federation".