ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (AP) — Pope Francis on Saturday called the arms industry a major cause of the Ukrainian people’s “martyrdom” in the war against Russia, saying that even withholding weapons now will continue their misery.
Francis appeared to be referring to Poland’s recent announcement that it would stop sending weapons to Ukraine when asked about the war during brief remarks to reporters on his way home from Marseille, France.
Francis admitted he was frustrated that the Vatican’s diplomatic initiatives had not borne much fruit. However, he said that the arms industry was also behind the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
He described the paradox that made Ukraine a “martyred nation” – that many countries first gave Ukraine weapons and now take them away again. Francis has long denounced the arms industry as a “dealer of death,” but he has also asserted the right of countries to defend themselves.
“I have now seen that some countries are withdrawing and no longer supplying weapons,” he said.
“This will certainly start a process in which martyrdom falls to the Ukrainian people. And that’s bad.” It was obviously a reference to Prime Minister Mateusz Morawieck’s announcement that Poland would no longer supply arms to Ukraine as part of a trade dispute.
“We cannot play with the martyrdom of the Ukrainian people,” Francis said. “We have to help solve things in a way that is possible.”
“We do not want to delude ourselves that the two heads of state and government will have dinner together tomorrow, but we want to do whatever is possible,” he said.
In other comments, Francis spoke about his two-day visit to Marseille, during which he urged Europe to be more welcoming to migrants.
Francis said he was encouraged that there was greater awareness of the plight of migrants 10 years after his first trip as pope to the Italian island of Lampedusa, the starting point of the European migration debate. But he said the “reign of terror” they endured at the hands of smugglers had not gotten any better.
Francis recalled that when he became pope, “I didn’t even know where Lampedusa was.” The Sicilian island, which is closer to Africa than mainland Italy, is the preferred destination for migrant smugglers and has seen frequent shipwrecks off its coasts. Last week the island was overwhelmed when nearly 7,000 migrants arrived in one day, more than the resident population.
Francis, who was elected pope in 2013, said he heard some stories about the problems in Lampedusa in his first months as pope, “and in prayer I heard: ‘You have to go there’.”
The visit highlighted the importance of the migrant issue for Francis, who made some memorable gestures of solidarity, including in 2016 when he brought back a dozen Syrian Muslim migrants on his plane after visiting a refugee camp on Lesbos. Greece.
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