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31 Aug, 2023 13:52

Lithuania summons Vatican envoy

Vilnius wants to have a “conversation” about Pope Francis’ praise of Russian history
Lithuania summons Vatican envoy

The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry has requested a meeting with the Vatican’s envoy to the country about recent remarks made by Pope Francis on Russian history, local media have reported.

“The Foreign Ministry has invited the apostolic nuncio for a conversation in early September, when Archbishop Petar Rajic will return from his vacation,” the Baltic News Service quoted spokesperson Paulina Levickyte as saying on Wednesday.

The Pope stirred anger among Moscow’s critics with his remarks to young Russian Catholics last week. He urged them to cherish their nation’s history, naming Peter I and Catherine II as examples of great Russian political leaders. The monarchs were bestowed with the honorific “the Great” and are two of three such Russian rulers.

The Pontiff’s words were met with fury in Kiev. A spokesman for the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry accused Pope Francis of praising “grand-state ideas, which are the cause of Russia’s chronic aggression.” Mikhail Podoliak, a senior aide to President Vladimir Zelensky, branded the Catholic leader an “instrument of Russian propaganda.”

The Vatican’s ambassador to Kiev rejected claims that the remarks supported imperialism. The Lithuanian Embassy to the Holy See reposted his comments, according to local media, although the Foreign Ministry said the apparent endorsement had not been coordinated with Vilnius.

Moscow reacted to the controversy by stating that it agreed with the Pope’s assessment that Russia has a rich and much-valued history.

There are many teachers in Russian schools and universities whose goal is to inspire students with this legacy, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, adding that “the fact that the Pontiff sounded in unison with those efforts was very pleasing.”