Pope Francis’s recent comments about Chechens and Buryats as the “cruellest Russians” drew the ire of Maria Zakharova, the spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry.
The pope reportedly made the comment in an interview with America, a Christian magazine. The interview was published on Nov. 28, Monday.
Pope Francis on the “Cruellest Russians”
The pontiff was referring to the residents of Chechnya and Buryatia, whom he claimed committed the most foul acts of cruelty in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.
“When I talk about Ukraine, I talk about brutality, because I have a lot of information about the brutality of the troops there. As a rule, the cruellest Russians are those who are not close to the Russian tradition, such as Chechens, Buryats, and so on,” EuroWeekly News quoted Francis saying in his magazine interview.
Zakharova, who spoke at a meeting of the Russian Federation Council, blasted the pope’s remarks.
“You have to be perverts of the truth,” she reportedly said.
Additionally, Zakharova took to Telegram to explain further about the issue.
“When I speak of Ukraine, I speak of a people who are martyred. If you have martyred people, you have someone who tortures them. As a rule, the most brutal ones are probably those from Russia, but not of the Russian tradition, such as the Chechens, the Buryats, and so on,” Zakharova wrote.
The Russian spokesperson likewise tried to turn the spotlight on the Catholic Church.
“One more thing. What will the Vatican tell us about the martyrdom of the multinational Soviet people? Maybe it makes sense to first discuss Catholic penance for the 20th century for the Orthodox, and for Muslims for the many centuries before that?” she asked.
Buryatia’s governor, Alexei Tsydenov, also weighed in on the pope’s remarks.
“Hearing an assessment from the head of the Catholic Church about the cruelty of specific nationalities – namely the Buryats and Chechens, protecting the civilian population – is at least strange,” Tsydenov exclaimed.
The Russian governor also drew comparisons from history, saying the people who called themselves ambassadors of civilized countries end up destroying entire countries.
“There is no need to go far into history. The capital of a European state – the city of Belgrade – or the whole state of Libya were bombed without the participation of the Buryats, Chechens, and other peoples of Great Russia,” Tsydenov lamented.
Seeker of Peace, Understanding
The pope told the magazine that he informed the Russian embassy during the second day of the war of his readiness to mediate between Kyiv and Moscow, the respective seats of power of Ukraine and Russia. Francis disclosed that Russian Foreign Ministry head Sergey Lavrov told him his offer as mediator was not yet required at the time.
Francis explained that the Holy See has traditionally maintained its position of peace and strategy.
“The position of the Holy See is to seek peace and mutual understanding. The diplomacy of the Holy See is moving in this direction and, of course, is always ready to mediate,” the pontiff told the magazine.