Pope condemns ‘shameful’ Ukraine war, but calls Western defense expenditures ‘madness’

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ROME – Pope Francis said on Thursday that what is happening in Ukraine is “unbearable” and this “shameful war” evidences a culture of “power and oppression.” He also called the decision by NATO countries to raise weapons expenditures “madness.”

The pontiff claimed even though there have been regional wars since the end of World War II, the one taking place in Ukraine now “has a greater dimension and threatens the entire world.”

Yet “the basic problem is the same: we continue to govern the world as a ‘chess board.’ where the powerful study moves to extend their dominance to the detriment of others,” Francis said. “The real answer, therefore, is not more weapons, more sanctions, more political-military alliances, but a different approach, a different way of governing the world, now globalized, and of setting up international relations.”

Francis said that it is evident that good politics cannot come from a culture of power understood as “domination and oppression, but only from a culture of care, care of the person and his dignity and care of our common home. This is proven, unfortunately negatively, by the shameful war we are witnessing.”

The pope’s remarks came as he addressed the members of the Italian Women’s Center, a movement born in October 1944 as a collaboration of women and Christian associations to contribute to the reconstruction of Italy following World War II.

They are currently in Rome for their 31 assembly.

Francis pointed out that the Center was born “in a context of defense of the dignity and rights of women, in that period so rich, so fruitful for Italy that followed World War II,” with the commitment to “preserve the human.”

Pope Francis stressed that “for you, participation in political life, as Pius XII emphasized, does not simply respond to the claim of full citizenship for women, but wants to be an act of justice towards the community and an enhancement of politics considered as a form of charity.”

The pope also said that for the people of his generation, it is “unbearable to see” what has happened and continues to happen in Ukraine, but that in the end, this is the fruit of the old logic of power that “dominates the so-called geopolitics.”

“I was ashamed,” he said, “when I read that a group of states have pledged to spend two percent of their GDP to buy weapons, as a response to what is happening. Madness!”

Francis was referring to the NATO member states’ 2014 pledge to spend no less than two percent of national GDP on defense, of which at least 20 percent should go to major equipment, including research and development. At the time only three countries have met the two percent target. However, Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has led to several countries, including Italy, saying they will meet the mark by 2024.

As a footnote, Putin’s administration has said many times that he is ready to go to war with any country that tries to join NATO, or with any NATO allies if any of them actually send troops to Ukraine.

Faced with the reality of more weapons and a victorious-versus-defeated mentality, Francis urged women to form a “new perspective,” from a logic that begins from the culture of care. “You can change the system,” he told them.

The pope said that he wanted to speak about this perspective with them because “women are the protagonists of this change of course, of this conversion. As long as they are not homologated by the prevailing power system.”

To bring the point home, he quoted the “Message to Women” that Pope Paul VI penned at the end of the Second Vatican Council.

“The hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of woman is being achieved in its fullness, the hour in which woman acquires in the world an influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved,” the sainted pope wrote in 1968. “That is why, at this moment when the human race is undergoing so deep a transformation, women impregnated with the spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid mankind in not falling.”

According to Francis, the prophetic force of this expression is “striking” because women today, by “acquiring power in society” can change the system, if they succeed “in converting power from the logic of domination to that of service, of care.”

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma

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