Reactions: Pope calls on Ukraine to negotiate peace: "I am ashamed as a Catholic"

Pope Francis has called on Ukraine to negotiate peace with Russia - triggering international outrage and criticism.

Reactions: Pope calls on Ukraine to negotiate peace: "I am ashamed as a Catholic"

Pope Francis has called on Ukraine to negotiate peace with Russia - triggering international outrage and criticism. "When you see that you are defeated, that things are not going well, you have to have the courage to negotiate," the Pope told the Italian-language Swiss broadcaster RSI in an interview. He is of the opinion that strength shows "who recognizes the situation, who thinks about the people, who has the courage to raise the white flag and negotiate" - with which he was obviously addressing Ukraine.

"As you can imagine, the Chancellor does not agree with the Pope on this issue," said government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit on Monday in Berlin. "It is true that Ukraine is defending itself against an aggressor." They also receive a lot of international support in order to be able to defend themselves against the war of aggression that violates international law.

Bundestag Vice President Katrin Göring-Eckardt also contradicted the Pope. “Nobody wants peace more than Ukraine,” said the Green politician to the Editorial Network Germany (RND). Putin can end war and suffering immediately - not Ukraine. "Anyone who demands that Ukraine simply surrender is giving the aggressor what he has illegally taken and thereby accepting the annihilation of Ukraine."

CDU leader Friedrich Merz has clearly rejected the Pope's call for Ukraine to negotiate peace with Russia. Merz said on Monday in Berlin that he considered the statement by the head of the Catholic Church to be “fundamentally wrong.” He was “surprised, to say the least.” History has also shown that the Catholic Church is “not free from error”.

The FDP defense politician Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann called on the Pope to condemn the "verbal murderous incitement" of the Orthodox Moscow Patriarch Kirill against the Ukrainians. "As a Catholic, I'm ashamed that he doesn't do that."

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock reacted in shock. “I really wonder what he was thinking,” said the Green politician on Sunday evening on the ARD program “Caren Miosga”. "I dont understand." Baerbock was of the opinion that you can only understand some things if you see them yourself. When you see how a kindergarten in Ukraine is attacked, how children and young people are kidnapped by Russians. "I ask myself: Where is the Pope? The Pope must know about this."

There is also clear criticism of the Pope's appeal at the top of the Union. "Hoisting white flags has solved nothing in Ukraine, quite the opposite," said Hesse's Prime Minister Boris Rhein (CDU) on Monday when he arrived at a joint meeting of the CDU and CSU presidiums to approve the Union's European election program in Berlin. "We must all be clear that a Putin victory in Ukraine will have a terrible impact on Europe's freedom. Nothing will be better if Putin wins there, everything will get worse."

CDU treasurer Julia Klöckner said that as a Catholic she was “more than irritated by this call to raise the white flag.” If you demand that someone who is being attacked surrender, "then that is a request to Mr. Putin to just carry on with the blessing of the church."

Saxony's Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer (CDU), on the other hand, has supported Pope Francis' call to Ukraine for peace negotiations with Russia. "Pope Francis is a prudent man. I share his call for 'courage to negotiate'," the head of government told the newspapers of the Germany editorial network. “It is clear that Ukraine must be supported and Russia is the aggressor in this war,” Kretschmer continued. "Nevertheless, we must make greater efforts to end deaths in war."

Ukraine has clearly rejected Pope Francis' considerations. “Our flag is yellow and blue,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Platform X on Sunday, referring to the colors of the national flag. "This is the flag under which we live, die and win. We will never fly another flag."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said: "When Russian evil started this war on February 24 (2022), all Ukrainians stood up to defend themselves. Christians, Muslims, Jews - everyone." And he thanks every Ukrainian clergyman who is in the army, in the Defense Forces. They are on the front line, they protect life and humanity, they support with prayers, conversations and actions. "That's what the church is - with the people."

Russia sees the statements as confirmation of its own position. "As I see it, the Pope is asking the West to put aside its ambitions and admit that it was wrong," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told the Italian news agency Ansa. Accordingly, Zakharova says that the West is using Ukraine to weaken Russia. She further explains that Russia has never blocked negotiations.

Russia does not understand the statements as a call for Ukraine to surrender, but as a plea for negotiations, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday, according to Russian news agencies. Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin has repeatedly spoken about being ready and open to negotiations. “This is the preferred way,” Peskov said. Western politicians and observers have in the past expressed doubts about Moscow's serious willingness to engage in talks.

NATO has rejected the Pope's proposal. “Surrender is not peace,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday in Brussels, without mentioning Pope Francis by name. Stoltenberg continued: "President Putin started this war and he could end it today. Ukraine, on the other hand, does not have this option." He called on all allies to continue to support Kiev militarily.

"Nürnberger Nachrichten": "Putin should be happy about the Pope's words. Francis rowed back on the term 'white flag'. But he also spoke about it - i.e. about a capitulation by Kiev. That would be much more than negotiations. With that he supports "Unfortunately, and certainly unintentionally, Pope even Putin - he is counting on time, attrition and on the fact that he does not have to fear any opposition from the oppressed Russia. If he has even a little success in Ukraine, he will move on."

"Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung": "The desire for justice and freedom for the entire Ukraine is great, understandably. But the resources of Ukraine and the West are limited. That's what the Pope means. That's why Francis is far from being a Ukraine traitor or Putin's Pope . On the contrary. The longer the war of aggression lasts, the more Russian soldiers fall, the less the Ukrainian army has anything to counter the aggressors, the higher the price that Kiev will one day have to pay for a ceasefire. It is not about surrender. However, with each further Ukrainian defeat on the battlefield, a dictated peace by Putin's grace becomes more likely."

“Volksstimme” (Magdeburg): “The appeal for peace from the Vatican is sheer mockery – and discredits the Pope as an honest broker between the warring parties, which he has repeatedly offered himself to be. Because he unilaterally recommends that the Ukrainian victims give up – and not the Russian ones perpetrators to retreat."

"Südkurier", Konstanz: "There is no need to be surprised: The Pope is calling for peace - what else should the head of the church do? Easter is coming soon, where Jesus' resurrection is remembered and his words to his disciples: 'Peace be with you.' In a world in which arms deliveries are primarily discussed, a pacifist counterweight can also be good."

"Reutlinger Generalanzeiger": "Of course the Catholic Church claims to be a moral authority. In this respect, it may seem strange that Francis does not distinguish between the Ukrainian victims and the Russian aggressors. But that is exactly what the church's position is. It does not distinguish between guilt and innocence. The church does not condemn, it calls for reconciliation and compromise. Whenever it deviated from this path, it did not end well."

"Pforzheimer Zeitung": "It is true that the military situation for Ukraine is currently precarious. Nevertheless, the 'white flag' is out of the question for the vast majority of people in Ukraine. Because it would mean the loss of freedom and self-determination . The fact that Francis doesn't respect that is a shame."

"The Telegraph", London: "The Ukrainians have not lacked courage. But perhaps the Pope is only saying what many secular leaders in Europe, America and elsewhere are thinking: that Ukraine cannot win and should try to encourage further bloodshed (...) So far, NATO has declared that it will help Ukraine 'for as long as necessary' to stop Russia. But this promise is contradicted by slow arms deliveries to Kiev."