Ukraine Blasts Pope Francis for Address to Russian Youth

A Ukrainian official accused the pope of spreading 'imperialist propaganda' for saying Russians should be proud of their heritage

Ukrainian officials have sharply criticized Pope Francis for an address he gave to young Russian Catholics, accusing him of spreading “imperialist propaganda” for saying Russians should be proud of their heritage.

“Never forget your heritage. You are the descendants of great Russia: the great Russia of saints, rulers, the great Russia of Peter I, Catherine II, that empire – educated, great culture and great humanity. Never give up on this heritage,” the pope said in a video address to a Catholic youth assembly in St. Petersburg last week.

“You are descendants of the great Mother Russia, step forward with it. And thank you – thank you for your way of being, for your way of being Russian,” he added.

Oleh Nikolenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, slammed the pope’s speech. “This is the kind of imperialist propaganda, ‘spiritual bonds’ and the ‘need’ to save ‘Great Mother Russia’ which the Kremlin uses to justify the murder of thousands of Ukrainians and the destruction of hundreds of Ukrainian towns and villages,” he said.

On Wednesday, the Vatican responded to the Ukrainian criticism, saying it was clear that the pope was not pushing any sort of imperialist agenda.

“In the words of greeting addressed to several young Russian Catholics a few days ago, as is clear from the context in which he pronounced them, the Pope intended to encourage young people to preserve and promote what is positive in Russia’s great cultural and spiritual heritage, and certainly not to exalt imperialistic logics and governmental personalities, cited to indicate certain historical periods of reference,” said Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See Press Office.

Ukrainian officials have criticized the pope at other times during the war. Last year, Pope Francis expressed sadness over the death of Darya Dugina, daughter of the Russian philosopher Alexander Dugun. Dugina was killed by a car bomb outside of Moscow in an operation carried out by Ukrainian intelligence.

“I think of that poor girl blown up by a bomb under the seat of her car in Moscow,” Francis said Dugina’s killing. “Innocents pay the price of war.” In response, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro said the “Ukrainian heart is torn by the pope’s words.”

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.