By Mariya Knight and Jessie Yeung, CNN
Published 10:37 PM EDT, Tue August 29, 2023
The pontiff made a video address to the 10th All-Russian Catholic Youth Assembly in St. Petersburg on Friday, during which he urged them to view themselves as descendants of the Russian empire.
“Never forget your heritage. You are the descendants of great Russia: the great Russia of saints, rulers, the great Russia of Peter I, Catherine II, that empire – educated, great culture and great humanity. Never give up on this heritage,” the pope said.
“You are descendants of the great Mother Russia, step forward with it. And thank you – thank you for your way of being, for your way of being Russian.”
On Monday, Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Oleh Nikolenko lambasted the pope’s speech.
“This is the kind of imperialist propaganda, ‘spiritual bonds’ and the ‘need’ to save ‘Great Mother Russia’ which the Kremlin uses to justify the murder of thousands of Ukrainians and the destruction of hundreds of Ukrainian towns and villages,” Nikolenko said in a Facebook post.
The pope’s mission should be “precisely to open the eyes of Russian youth to the devastating course of the current Russian leadership” and instead he is promoting “Russian great-power ideas, that are, in fact, the reason for Russia’s chronic aggression,” Nikolenko said.
Last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin compared himself to Peter the Great during an exhibition dedicated to the first Russian emperor, using the comparison to justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Peter the Great waged the Great Northern War for 21 years,” Putin said at the time. “On the face of it, he was at war with Sweden taking something away from it … He was not taking away anything, he was returning. This is how it was.” He added that it didn’t matter that European countries didn’t recognize Peter the Great’s seizure of territory by force.
Categories: Organized religion