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Pope Francis has called for more nuance in discussions of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, insisting that people are too quick to create labels of “good guy” and “bad guy” for a complex global situation that amounts to an ongoing “third world war”.
“A few years ago it occurred to me to say that we are living a third world war fought piecemeal,” the pope told the editors of the newspaper La Civilta Cattolica. “Today, for me, the third world war is declared.”
The pope’s extensive conversation with Cattolica’s editorial board, published on Tuesday, acknowledged the atrocities in Ukraine, but the pope warned that many people are “missing all the drama…that is happening behind this war.”
“What we see is the brutality and ferocity with which this war is being waged by the troops, usually mercenaries, used by the Russians,” Pope Francis said. “In reality, the Russians prefer to send forward Chechens, Syrians, mercenaries.”
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The pope raised the possibility that the war was “either provoked or not prevented”, and that there was “an interest in testing and selling arms”.
“Someone can tell me at this point: But you are pro-Putin! No, I am not,” insisted the pope. “It would be simplistic and wrong to say such a thing.”
“I’m just against turning a complex situation into a distinction between the good guys and the bad guys, regardless of roots and personal interests, which are very complex,” he said.
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The pope also spent time praising the “brave” Ukrainian people who “struggle to survive and have a history of conflict.”
But he linked the invasion of Ukraine to other conflicts around the world, such as in parts of Africa “where the war is going on and nobody cares”.
“Think of Rwanda 25 years ago. Think of Myanmar and the Rohingyas,” he said. “The world is at war.”
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“What is happening to humanity that has experienced three world wars in a century? he added. “I lived the first war through the memory of my grandfather on the Piave, then the second and now the third, and it is bad for humanity, a calamity.”
The pope blamed arms manufacturers and arms dealers, who he said were happy to see their products tested in conflict.
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“What is before our eyes is a situation of global war, global interests, arms sales and geopolitical appropriation, which martyrs a heroic people.”
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