Pope says God does not back war

·2-min read

Pope Francis says God does not guide religions towards war, an implicit criticism of Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, who backs the invasion of Ukraine and has boycotted a conference of faith leaders.

On his second day in Kazakhstan, Francis addressed the Seventh Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, a meeting that brings together Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and other faiths.

The congress is marked by Kirill's conspicuous absence. He was to have attended but later pulled out.

The Russian Orthodox Church sent a delegation.

"God is peace. He guides us always in the way of peace, never that of war," Francis said, speaking at a huge round table in the Independence Palace, a huge modern structure made of steel and glass in the capital of the former Soviet republic.

"Let us commit ourselves, then, even more to insisting on the need for resolving conflicts not by the inconclusive means of power, with arms and threats, but by the only means blessed by heaven and worthy of man: encounter, dialogue and patient negotiations," he said.

The Pope, who earlier this year said Kirill could not be Russian President Vladimir Putin's "altar boy," told the conference: The sacred must never be a prop for power, nor power a prop for the sacred!"

Kirill has given enthusiastic backing to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which the patriarch views as a bulwark against a West he calls decadent.

His stance has caused a rift with the Vatican and unleashed an internal rebellion that has led to the severing of ties by some local Orthodox Churches with the Russian Orthodox Church.

Francis also said that while violence in God's name was never justified, the "viruses" of hate and terrorism would not be eradicated without first wiping out injustice and poverty.

Francis, who wrote a major document in 2015 on the need to protect the environment, said religious leaders had to be in the front line in bringing attention to the dangers of climate change and extreme weather, particularly its effects on society's poor and vulnerable.

There are only about 125,000 Catholics among the 19 million population of the vast Central Asian country. About 70 per cent of the Kazakhs are Muslim and about 26 per cent Orthodox Christians.