Can Russian President Vladimir Putin consider calls for peace by Pope Francis a ‘triumph’ of his opposition to a U.S. strike on Syria? For France’s La Croix, columnist Guillaume Goubert, recalling Pope John Paul II’s epic confrontation with the Kremlin, warns Putin that trifling with a pope’s words can be a risky business, especially for a Russian head of state.
For La Croix, Guillaume Goubert writes in part:
“War never again! Never again war!” The call of Pope Francis, launched last Sunday from St. Peter’s Square and repeated on Twitter, may seem like particularly naive idealism.
Pope Francis refuses to allow humanity to surrender in the face of violence. He has invited all believers and people of good will to share tomorrow [Saturday] a day of fasting and prayer for peace. In an unprecedented gesture, Frances himself will lead an evening-long prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Square. Whatever the symbolic power of this gesture, the head of the Catholic Church isn’t stopping there. In a series of actions not seen at the Vatican in ten years, he has mobilized all of the diplomatic strength of the Holy See to achieve a negotiated end to the Syrian crisis and denounce the “futile pursuit of a military solution.”
These words are from a letter written by the pope addressed to Vladimir Putin, as host of the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg. The Russian president might be tempted to exploit these words – he who opposes any armed action against the Damascus regime. But if his memory still functions, he will take care not to linger too long in triumph. The former KGB agent stationed in Germany at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall will recall that the word of a pope – it was then John Paul II – can be a very disarming “naiveté.”
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