Vatican Retracts Pope’s ‘Great Russia’ Remark Amid Ukrainian Outcry

Pope's Comments Prompt Ukrainian Backlash

Pope Francis. Credit: VaticanNews/

Is the Pope inadvertently fuelling Russian imperialistic ideas? Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry seems to think so.

Oleh Nikolenko, the spokesperson for Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry, took to Facebook to criticise a statement made by Pope Francis during the All-Russian Day of Catholic Youth in Saint Petersburg on August 25, writes Euromaidan Press.

Pope’s Controversial Statement

In his speech, Pope Francis told the Russian youth, ‘Never forget your heritage. You are the descendants of great Russia: the great Russia of saints, rulers, the great Russia of Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, that empire 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 for your way of being, for your way of being Russian.’

Ukrainian Ministry’s Response

Nikolenko expressed disappointment, stating that the Pope’s words were propagating Russian imperial ideologies that Moscow utilises to rationalise the killing of Ukrainians. ‘It is with such imperialist propaganda and the “need” to save “Great Mother Russia” that the Kremlin justifies the murders of thousands of Ukrainians and the destruction of hundreds of Ukrainian cities and villages,’ said the Ukrainian spokesperson.

Vatican Edits Pope’s Statement

The Vatican’s official website, Vatican News, initially published the full text of the Pope’s speech but later removed the contentious passage. However, a video clip containing the Pope’s original statement remains accessible online.

Nikolenko further lamented that the Pope, who is generally seen as a moral compass, was either knowingly or unknowingly echoing Russian grandiosity. ‘It is very unfortunate that Russian great-power ideas, which are, in fact, the cause of Russia’s chronic aggressiveness, are consciously or unconsciously coming from the mouth of the Pope, whose mission, in our understanding, is precisely to open the eyes of Russian youth to the destructive course of the current Russian leadership,’ he added.

This controversy comes after Pope Francis, in 2022, identified Russia as the perpetrator in the conflict against Ukraine, denounced Russia’s incursion into Ukrainian territory, and labelled the Ukrainian populace as ‘martyrs’ suffering under the ‘cruelty’ of Russian forces.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.