Pope Francis made some shocking statements in an interview with the editors of European Jesuit publications that were published in Italian Jesuit La Civiltà Cattolica and the secular newspaper La Stampa on Tuesday.
“The world is at war,” the pontiff said. “For me, today, World War III has been declared. This is something that should give us pause for thought. What is happening to humanity that we have had three world wars in a century?”
“We are living the third world war piece by piece,” he said, stating simply, “The world is at war! A few years ago, it occurred to me to say that we are experiencing a third world war fought piecemeal. Today, for me, World War III has been declared. This is something that should give us pause for thought. What is happening to humanity that has had three world wars in a century? I experienced the first war through the memory of my grandfather on the Piave River. Then the second and now the third. And this is bad for humanity, a calamity. You have to think that in a century, there have been three world wars, with all the arms trade behind it!
Pope Francis took the side of Ukraine in the conflict, condemning “the brutality and ferocity” of the Russian troops while praising the heroism and courage of the Ukrainians.
“What we are seeing is the brutality and ferocity with which this war is being carried out by the troops, generally mercenaries, used by the Russians. In reality, the Russians prefer to send forward Chechens, Syrians, and mercenaries. But the danger is that we only see this, which is monstrous, and miss the whole drama that is unfolding behind this war, which was perhaps somehow either provoked or not-prevented. I also note the interest in testing and selling weapons. It is very sad, but at the end of the day, that is what is at stake.”
The pope did soften his judgment, saying, “we do not see the whole drama behind the war, which was perhaps somehow either provoked or not prevented.”
“Someone may say to me at this point: but you are pro-Putin!” the pope said. “No, I am not. It would be simplistic and erroneous to say such a thing. I am simply against reducing complexity to the distinction between good guys and bad guys without reasoning about roots and interests, which are complex,” he said. “While we see the ferocity, the cruelty of Russian troops, we must not forget real problems if we want them to be solved.”
“The Russians thought it would all be over in a week,” Pope Francis recalled. “But they miscalculated. They encountered a brave people, a people who are struggling to survive and who have a history of struggle.”
“We need to move away from the usual Little Red Riding Hood pattern, in that Little Red Riding Hood was good, and the wolf was the bad one,” he said. “Here, there are no metaphysical good guys and bad guys, in an abstract sense. Something global is emerging, with elements that are very much intertwined.”Something global is emerging, and the elements are very much entwined.”
Pope Francis suggested that the invasion was instigated by NATO, recalling a talk he had with an unnamed head of state he described as “a wise man who speaks little, a very wise man indeed.” The man told the pontiff, “‘They [NATO] are barking at the gates of Russia. They don’t understand that the Russians are imperial and can’t have any foreign power getting close to them.”
In his recent interview, the pope warned that the war will leave behind a humanitarian crisis. He recalled a visit by two Ukrainian wives lamenting that their husbands were left behind to fight.
“Everyone opens their hearts to the refugees, the Ukrainian exiles, who are usually women and children.” the pope said. “The men are left to fight.”
“We are all very sensitive to these dramatic situations,” Francis said. “But I ask myself, what will happen when the enthusiasm to help passes? Because things are cooling down, and who will then take care of these women? We need to look beyond the concrete action of the moment, and see how we will support them so that they do not fall into trafficking, are not abused, because the vultures are already circling.”
“What is before our eyes is a situation of world war, global interests, arms sales, and geopolitical appropriation, which is martyring a heroic people.”
The pope recalled a conversation with Patriarch Kirill, a Russian Orthodox bishop who is the Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus and Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, who backed Moscow’s Ukraine invasion.
“I was supposed to meet him on 14 June in Jerusalem to talk about our affairs. But due to the war, by mutual agreement, we decided to postpone the meeting to a later date so that our dialogue would not be misunderstood. I hope to meet him at a general assembly in Kazakhstan in September. I hope to be able to greet him and talk a bit with him as a pastor.”
It is important to note that according to Jewish tradition, the pre-Messiah War of Gog and Magog will be fought in three parts. This was taught by a world-renowned Torah authority known popularly as the Chofetz Chaim. Rabbi Kagan passed away in 1933, after the First World War but before the beginning of World War II.
The Chofetz Chaim believed that World War One, what was called at the time the War to end all wars, was the first stage. Though he did not live to see World War II, we can assume that was the second stage. He predicted that the final war would be the worst of all.