The Pope cannot solve the world’s problems

Pope Francis deserves our admiration, prayers and support for his tireless efforts to promote peace and goodwill among nations, peoples and religions, and for constantly reminding us that everything and everybody in the universe are interconnected.

Apr 16, 2022

Pope Francis holds a flag that he received from Bucha, Ukraine. (Vatican Media)

By Robert Mickens

Pope Francis deserves our admiration, prayers and support for his tireless efforts to promote peace and goodwill among nations, peoples and religions, and for constantly reminding us that everything and everybody in the universe are interconnected. His intense advocacy for the health of our planet, his concern for the poor, and his courageous stance to protect the rights of migrants and refugees is unparalleled on the world stage. And we can only applaud him for his disarming witness as a man of sincere dialogue and as a global moral leader who refuses to divide the world into black and white, winners and losers, villains and heroes, the evil and the righteous. Without a doubt, Pope Francis has been the most evangelical, non-sectarian and “Catholic” (as in universal and all-embracing) Pope the world has seen in many centuries.

Deep anxiety over the Russian invasion
In the past two months we have seen him agonisingly consumed with the horrors of war in Ukraine. His deep anxiety over the Russian invasion and the seemingly unstoppable destruction it unleashed is palpable. Even if he has not mentioned the aggressor-nation or its leader by name, Pope Francis has made it crystal clear that he's extremely frustrated with Vladimir Putin and his “chaplain”, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia. We are told that the Pope has decided not to name names in the hope of securing a role for himself or Holy See diplomats in mediating an end to the RussianUkrainian “conflict”. He’s said various times that he’s willing to do whatever he can to stop this war. But perhaps it’s time to face the fact that there is probably no role for him or the Holy See here.

The Russian Orthodox and the “Pope of Rome”
In fact, it is really quite surprising that there are those who believe that the leaders and prominent adherents of the Orthodox Church — both in Russia and in Ukraine — would even trust the “Pope of Rome” or any cleric under obedience to him to mediate Russian-Ukrainian talks. Pope Francis may have been able to secure the long-coveted meeting with the Russian Patriarch that eluded his predecessors, but that has not significantly changed the calculus of Russian Orthodox-Roman Catholic relations, which are still hampered by lingering distrust that stems from even the recent past. It is just as ludicrous to believe that a papal visit to Kyiv would do anything to resolve the Russian-Ukrainian conflict or that the Orthodox would even welcome Francis. The Russians are certainly not in favour of him going there. And Orthodox leaders in Ukraine don’t seem particularly thrilled about the prospects of him visiting their country either. Since the Russian invasion on February 24, Pope Francis has spoken to Patriarch Kirill only once — at the patriarch’s initiative. But he seems to have had no contact at all with the Orthodox hierarchs in Ukraine.

A Jew and three Catholics walk into a...
None of the four Ukrainian “authorities” who are urging Francis to visit Kyiv are members of the Orthodox Church. First of all, there is President Volodymyr Zelensky. He is a secular Jew who came into office vowing he would not take sides in Ukraine’s volatile Church disputes. Then there is Major Archbishop Sviatolslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), which is Orthodox in every conceivable way except that it is professes loyalty to the Roman papacy. And for this reason, the Orthodox in Russia and Ukraine intensely dislike and distrust these Byzantine Catholics. Another figure that has backed a papal visit is Archbishop Mieczys?aw Mokrzycki of Lviv. He is the de facto head of Ukraine’s Latin Rite Catholics, who are mostly located in the western part of the country near the border with Poland where the archbishop was born. And, finally, there’s Ukraine’s new ambassador to the Holy See, Andrii Yurash. He just presented the Pope with his credentials this past week and is now the most vocal advocate of a papal visit to Kyiv. Yurash happens to be a Byzantine Catholic, a member of Archbishop Shevchuk’s flock.

The impotence of papal diplomacy
Pope Francis obviously wants very badly to help bring about a peaceful resolution to the horrible situation in Ukraine. But he has begun to show flashes of frustration with his inability to do so. Last week he even took aim at the United Nations, lamenting the organisation’s “impotence” in the face of what's currently happening. But he must admit that papal diplomacy has been just as impotent. His Secretary of State and chief diplomat, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said in a recent interview with the Catholic News Agency that the Holy See has been in dialogue with Russia and Ukraine since at least 2014 to avert the war that is now raging. He openly admitted that the Holy See’s efforts had failed. “In a dialogue situation, it was logical that there should be no hostile act. Still, an attempt should be made to use all the means of the negotiation, hoping that the talks would be successful — which, unfortunately, did not happen,” the Italian cardinal said. The Holy See has tried to present itself as a neutral, even-handed mediator. But given the religious demographics in the region, it is not difficult to see why the Russians might be somewhat careful to actually trust such professed neutrality. According to Vatican statistics, there are fewer than 500,000 Catholics in Russia, out of a population of 105 million. But there are nearly five million Catholics (Latins and Byzantines) in Ukraine, where they make up more than 11 per cent of the total population.

The Pope cannot work miracles
Pope Francis has been a remarkable gift to the Catholic Church and to all of humanity. But he cannot solve all the world’s problems, stop all of its wars and heal all of its ills. And no one should expect him to. We are blessed to have a Pope who, in many astonishing ways, is extremely Christ-like. But he is not the Christ. And he simply cannot work miracles. Those who are pushing hard for a papal visit to Ukraine evidently think he can. Because if he were to go to the war-ravaged country, he would not be able to resolve anything, short of something miraculous happening. The Pope — and not just this Pope — simply lacks the type of quasi-superhuman power and influence that many of his adulators believe he has. They need to admit that there is probably nothing more he can do in this situation except continue to speak out and pray for peace. --(Letter from Rome), LCI (https://

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