Ukraine’s bishops are urged to avoid politicising their positions

Pope Francis has urged Ukraine’s Catholic bishops to focus on the social and human tragedies unfolding in their country and avoid politicising their positions.

Meeting the bishops from the country’s Byzantine- and Latin-rite traditions on an ad limina visit to Rome, he urged them to work together, saying, “The sense of justice and truth is moral before being political, and such a task is entrusted to your duties as pastors, too”.

Assuring them of his prayers and concerns about the “serious conflict” in their nation, he cautioned them against being politicised, saying they were “not called to give a direct response” to issues that have “in part, a political basis”.

Although he spoke of how Ukraine is “as a country, in a situation of grave conflict”, he stopped short of recognising Russia’s role in the conflict, even when issuing an appeal “to all the interested parties that they might apply the agreements reached by mutual accord and might be respectful toward the principle of international legality”.

Coming so soon after his February 4th description of violence in Ukraine as “fratricidal”, the Pope’s reluctance to explicitly refer to Russia’s role in the conflict is striking. Prior to the meeting, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, major archbishop of Kiev-Halych, said the bishops intended to share with Pope Francis “the truth” that Ukraine is not in the throes of a civil war but is the victim of Russia’s “direct aggression”.