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Pope calls on young Russians to be proud of their heritage and sparks controversy

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Although Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine may make peace seem like an impossible dream, Pope Francis has urged young Russian Catholics to sow the seeds of reconciliation and peace as much that they can.

But the pope also told them never to forget their heritage and culture, remarks which later drew criticism, including from Ukrainians, and a memo from the Vatican’s nunciature in Ukraine saying Pope Francis “n never endorsed imperialist notions.

“I wish you, young Russians, the vocation to be artisans of peace in the midst of so many conflicts, in the midst of so many polarizations on all sides, which torment our world”, declared the pope in his speech prepared during a hour. August 25 video call with 400 participants at a Russian Catholic youth festival.

“I invite you to be sowers, to sow seeds of reconciliation, little seeds which, in this winter of war, will not germinate for the moment in the frozen ground, but will bloom next spring,” he told them. he says.

“Have the courage to replace your fears with dreams. Replace fears with dreams. Replace fears with dreams,” Pope Francis repeated. “Don’t be managers of fears but entrepreneurs of dreams. Treat yourself to the luxury of dreaming big! »

The Vatican press office published the pope’s prepared speech at the August 26 rally in St. encouraged to be proud of their heritage. .

Speaking in Italian, the pope told the young Russians: “Don’t forget your heritage. You are the heirs of the great Russia, of the great Russia of saints and kings, of the great Russia of Peter the Great, of Catherine II, of the great educated Russian Empire, endowed with so much culture and so much humanity. Never give up on this heritage.

Pope Francis did not mention the expansionist policies of Peter the Great and Catherine II.

A statement posted on the website of the Vatican Nunciature in Kiev on August 28 reads: “According to some interpretations, Pope Francis may have encouraged young Russian Catholics to draw inspiration from historical Russian figures known for their imperialist ideas and actions. and expansionists that have had a negative impact on neighboring countries. populations, including the Ukrainian people.

The nunciature “strongly rejects the aforementioned interpretations, as Pope Francis has never endorsed imperialist notions. On the contrary, he is a staunch opponent and critic of any form of imperialism or colonialism, whatever the people or the situation. The words spoken by the Roman Pontiff on August 25 should be understood in this same context,” the statement read.

The Fides agency of the Dicastery for Evangelization reports that a young woman asked Pope Francis how diplomacy could end the war in Ukraine.

Diplomacy does not ignore conflict, but strives to foster dialogue and unity, Pope Francis told him. “Diplomacy is moving down a path where unity is greater than conflict. True diplomacy is not afraid of conflicts, but it does not underline them: it takes conflicts and, with conflicts, it moves forward through dialogue and prayer.

“Diplomacy is not easy. Diplomats do so much good for humanity. It is not easy work, but it is very fruitful,” the pope said. “And this, both with regard to the Ukrainian situation and with other countries. Diplomacy always builds, it does not destroy.

In his prepared remarks, Pope Francis focused on some of the themes he addressed in Lisbon, Portugal, earlier this month during World Youth Day, including his insistence that in the church, there is room for everyone.

“How many wounds, how much despair can be healed where we feel welcomed. And the church welcomes us,” he said. “That’s why I dream of a church where no one is superfluous, where no one is superfluous.”

He urged people not to see the church as some kind of “customs house” where some are allowed in and some are not.

“Entry is free,” he said. “And then, let everyone hear Jesus’ invitation to follow him, to see how he stands before God; for this journey, there are the teachings and the sacraments.

Read more Crisis in Ukraine

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