Letter #70, 2022, Tuesday, May 3: Francis
Today in Rome came startling news: Pope Francis, 85, said in an interview that he would like to travel to Moscow soon to meet personally with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, 69, in order to see whether there might be a way to bring a ceasefire and then negotiations regarding the conflict in Ukraine. (link and text below)
Clearly, Francis is deeply concerned about the terrible cost of this war in human life — and about the possible consequences of a continuing or even wider war.
I — like many of you — share his deep concern.
I received many letters after my email of yesterday, in which I cited at length an interview with Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, a former advisor to the Russian government who suggested that the West should be more open to a negotiated settlement of the present conflict.
I feel some people did not understand my purpose in citing Sachs.
I did not wish to suggest Sachs is correct about all of his views and positions — for example, his strong support of population control methods that are not morally acceptable for Catholic teaching — and on those matters I disagree with him.
Still, I did wish to show that a man with considerable experience and knowledge can be quite clear that there is an urgent need to sit down and negotiate some sort of pathway to an agreement what could bring an end to this conflict before more people die, and before it spreads into a wider, longer war.
Here are just 11 of the letters I received:
(1) “Thank you Dr. Moynihan, for adjusting the Moral compass.”
(2) “Thank you Mr. Moynihan for Letter #69. I so understand your silence. We live in terrible times.”
(3) “No wonder the Pope uses him [Jeffrey Sachs] for advice. Your old college friend is smart and perhaps even wise. The problem we have with Russia is over Religion. When religion rapidly reasserted itself in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union some Western elite leaders saw this as bad for their plan of a new World Order which is entirely secular as we speak. Russia is currently the only country of world prominence which is now moving away from secularism. This is seen as a real threat to the secular West.”
(4) “Sure, Sachs says a lot of ‘the right things’… But, if you trust Jeffrey Sachs, you have taken leave of your senses. College days aside, this guy is a Soros man, a total globalist wanting nothing less than the total collapse of the United States. Wake up. Your behavior is unbecoming to say the least.”
(5) “Dr. Bob,
“Do you have any influence with Patriarch Kirill or his staff? Can you tell them that any good they think is being done to purify Ukraine by this military action is far outweighed by the harm of deaths on both Russian and Ukrainian sides and a breakdown of rules-based international order which could lead to a global war with the death of potentially billions of humans. Can you ask for a personal conversation with Msgr Hilarion whom you seem to have been in relatively friendly and constructive terms and try to learn what is in the heart of Patriarch Kirill? Bob, you may be able to break through this log jam with a listening ear and a loving heart. Please try.”
(6) “Oh my goodness, how is it that you do not see how the corruption of the US politicians drives this war in an elaborate money-laundering effort for them and for globalists. It is not a beat-your-breast, intellectual, esoteric examination of the situation. It is what it is: rampant greed, corruption, and pure evil, and it continues in part with endless funding with billions of dollars of US taxpayer money. And the people and young men of Ukraine are the fodder for their demonic machine. Call it out for what it is. Please.”
(7) “Dear Bob,
“I continue to be grateful for your work, and understand your recent several days of silence amid continuing and unspeakable violence and tragedy.
“Thank you for publishing Jeffrey Sachs’ acid observations, which lose much in terms of credibility given the simple fact that he fails to account honestly for the economic and geopolitical impact of the Biden Administration’s energy policies. Increased European dependence on Russian petrochemicals; facilitation of the Russian pipeline; evisceration of American exploration and development. What kind of economist, he? Perhaps a very, very ideological one.
“To some certain degree, energy policy is foreign policy. Dr. Sachs’ frothing anti-American jeremiad dares not recognize who owns this debacle and why; and to some very certain degree he exculpates Russia’s ongoing brutality and treachery.
“This is on Putin’s shoulders, but it is also a Biden Administration tragedy, an utter failure of American economic policy, common sense and statesmanship. They had no idea they’d get us and the world into this with their economic surrender to the global warming idol. And they have no idea how to get us out. Dr. Sachs does have that much right.”
(8) “Thank you for this timely information. It certainly puts much needed perspective on understanding the current situation in Ukraine. I am forwarding this to my distribution list. Professor Sachs was here when needed but Politics and Politicians had short term objectives.”
—Peter J Brock
(9) “Dr. Moynihan,
“Thank you for writing this.
“Finally a voice I agree with; one calling for Peace.
“I can assure you: If Nancy Pelosi and Adam Shiff are for something; I am against it.
“The world seems to have lost their minds.
“If anyone cared about Ukraine; or about the people in Ukraine; or about avoiding a world nuclear war; then they wouldn’t be calling for escalating a war and Victory; they would be concerned about saving lives; and avoiding a larger war. I guess that would be called uncommon sense.”
(10) “Hi Dr Moynihan,
“I remember reading awhile back Gorbachev’s remark that America did not go in to help the Russian people. [Editor’s Note: Evidently referring the period in the early 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union, when the US sent advisors (including Jeffrey Sachs) to assist the USSSR to “transition” from state communism to a different system.]
“I cared for a Jewish woman here in town so many years back. Her father grew up in Russia and became a member of the communist party so he could earn a better living. He said that Russia has many natural resources but the disability of being unable to develop them.
(11) “Dear Dr. Moynihan,
“About 6 weeks ago a friend sent me a NY Times opinion piece by David Brooks that I thought was especially silly. I paste below part of my response, which is also relevant to the situation as (Jeffrey) Sachs seems to see it:
“Brooks seems to think that “liberal internationalism” came into being only after WWII, and that its effects have been mostly salutary.
“Brooks writes: ‘American foreign policy had a second founding after World War II. For much of our history Americans were content to prosper behind the safety of the oceans. But after having been dragged into two world wars, a generation of Americans realized the old attitude wasn’t working any more and America … would have to help build a liberal world order if it was to remain secure.’
“‘Dragged into’ two world wars”?
“This may have been what Brooks learned in high school, but in reality the US government was committed to ‘liberal internationalism’ well before WWII, and FDR’s attempts to influence events in Europe in the later 1930s were intense and (unfortunately) extremely consequential. Chamberlain before his death said that Roosevelt had twisted his arm to issue the ‘Blank Check’ to Poland, and there is every reason to believe him.
“The US role in the outbreak, prolongation, and intensification of the war in Europe [Editor’s note: He is evidently referring to the time of World War II] may also have some contemporary relevance, inasmuch as the US administration was just as interested in Danzig in 1938 and 1939 as it seems to be interested in Donbass now.
“As you may know, as part of the German attack on Poland in September ’39, a special commando raid was made on the Polish Foreign Ministry in Warsaw, with the aim of seizing the secret diplomatic correspondence there before it could be destroyed. The raid was claimed to be largely successful, and the German ambassador in Poland, Hans-Adolf von Moltke, had published in 1940 a collection of documents from the seized correspondence of the Polish ambassadors in London, Paris, and Washington with the title Polnische Dokumente zur Vorgeschichte des Krieges [“Polish documents relating to the origins of the war”]. The reports especially of the Polish ambassador to the US, Jerzy Potocki, to the Polish Foreign Minister, Józef Beck, seemed to show that the Roosevelt administration had been playing a very active role exerting pressure on Poland, England, and France, regarding the return of Danzig to Germany. Specifically, the Poles were being strongly encouraged by the US to go to war over Danzig, and enticed to do so with specious promises of help (and the withholding of certain crucial information, such as the secret protocol to the Nazi-Soviet pact). The American ambassador was reported as stressing repeatedly to the Poles that war was inevitable, as was ultimate US participation. “As Ambassador Bullitt said, ‘Should war break out, likely we [the USA] shall not take part in it at the beginning, but we shall finish it.’ “[Juliusz Lukasiewicz, Diplomat in Paris: 1936-1939 (Columbia UP, 1970), p. 168.]
“At the time (1940), the US State Department denied the authenticity of the documents, as did Potocki. The US translator was arrested and charged with spreading German propaganda. The New York Times exercised the same due diligence as it did with the Ukraine famine and was to do with the Katyn Forest Massacre, supporting the government story and reporting Potocki’s denial [“Berlin Accuses US: Bullitt Quoted as Saying ‘We Will finish War on the Allies Side'”. NY Times, 30 March, 1940, p. 1]. But after the war various Polish diplomats admitted, explicitly or implicitly, that the documents were genuine. In 1962 the Polish ambassador in London, Edward Raczynski, confirmed the authenticity of the documents in his memoirs: In Allied London. The Wartime Diaries of the Polish Ambassador (London, 1962). Sometime before that, Potocki himself admitted to former president Herbert Hoover that the documents in question were genuine. As Hoover puts it: “When published, these documents were denounced as fabrications by Ambassador Bullitt, the Polish Ambassador to Washington, Count Jerzy Potocki, and by our State Department. But subsequently, the Polish Ambassador in Washington informed me that the documents were genuine and that he had denied their authenticity at the request of the State Department.” Herbert Hoover, Freedom Betrayed: Herbert Hoover’s Secret History of the Second World War and Its Aftermath. Edited by George H. Nash (Hoover Institution Press: Stanford, 2011), p. 132.
“If the documents are genuine, and it seems that they are, then they show at least that US regime-change operations on behalf of ‘liberal internationalism’ came in well before the Cold War, and that they have the potential, then as now, to spiral out of control.
“Thanks again for your outstanding work.
[End, letters from readers]
Here below is a report on the interview which Pope Francis gave to the Corriere della Sera in Italy, published today, in which he expresses his desire to go directly to Moscow and meet with Vladimir Putin, in order to try to begin a process of talks which might lead to a negotiated peace.
The fact that the Pope wishes to get directly involved, and is saying so publicly, coupled with the fact that he took the decision to consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, together with all the bishops of the world, on March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation, suggests to me that there is still something of the mystery of Fatima, and of the action of a superior power, entering into this present conflict, which may not be entirely scripted by those used to crafting the script for human events.
Maria, ora pro nobis (“Mary, pray for us”) — the Latin words with which my father ended many of his journal entries when describing his daily struggles of life in the 1940s and 1950s… —RM
Here is the text of the interview the Pope granted to Corriere della Sera, published today:
Pope Francis: “I am ready to meet Putin in Moscow” (link)
By Lucio Fontana
May 3, 2022
In an exclusive interview, Pope Francis says he is still waiting for an answer from Russia’s president, and fears he cannot, does not want t make this meeting at this time. He also says Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill cannot become Putin’s altar boy
He has said it time and again, in the last few days. Gracefully and with a big smile. It’s the first topic he tackles during our interview (with Fiorenza Sarzanini, vice director at Corriere della Sera), as soon as we set foot in his apartment in the Vatican.
“Please excuse me if I don’t get up to greet you, but see, I have a bad knee and I must remain seated, doctor’s orders.”
Today Pope Bergoglio will undergo a minor surgical procedure, a knee injection, to relieve the annoying joint pain that has until now prevented him from taking part in the usual audiences and informal meetings with the faithful. “I have a torn ligament and I’ve been prescribed a series of knee injections, so we’ll see,” he tells us. “It’s been going on for some time now, I can’t walk around anymore. Once upon a time popes used to be carried around in their sedan chair. But a bit of pain can be humbling, a blessing in disguise…”
His knee pain, however, isn’t the main worry for Pope Bergoglio at the moment. He’s deeply troubled by what is happening in the heart of Europe these days. “Stop! Stop the war,” he pleaded on the 24th of February, when the Russian armed forces invaded Ukraine, throwing open the door to death and destruction, now haunting the lives of all European citizens.
He never tires of repeating his plea, again and again. But with a feeling of hopelessness, as nothing seems to be changing. We sense a hint of pessimism in the words of Pope Bergoglio, as he tells us of his efforts, together with Vatican State Secretary Pietro Parolin (“He is a fantastic diplomat, in the tradition of Agostino Casaroli. Parolin knows the ins and outs of that world, and I place a great deal of trust in him”) in order to obtain at least a ceasefire.
The Holy Father recalls his many attempts at stopping the conflict and reiterates his willingness to travel to Moscow. “The first day of war I called the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, on the phone. But I didn’t call Putin. I had had a chance to speak to him in December for my birthday, but this time no, I didn’t try to contact him. It was meant to be a clear gesture for the whole world to see, and for that reason I paid a visit to the Russian ambassador. I asked for explanations and told him, “in the name of God, stop this war.” Later on, about twenty days into the war, I asked Cardinal Parolin to convey my message to Putin, that I was ready to travel to Moscow. For sure, I was waiting for some kind of opening gesture from the Kremlin leader. We received no answer whatsoever, but we keep pressing them on this issue. I fear, however, that Putin cannot, or does not want to agree to our meeting at the moment. But how can you not try and do whatever you can to stop the atrocities? Twenty-five years ago we saw something similar happening in Rwanda.”
Nato and the Kremlin
Pope Bergoglio’s main concern is that Putin won’t stop any time soon. He tries to consider the roots of his behaviour, the reasons that are pushing him to engage in such a brutal conflict. Maybe it was “Nato barking at Russia’s gate” that compelled Putin to unleash the invasion of Ukraine. “I have no way of telling whether his rage has been provoked” Bergoglio wonders, “but I suspect it was maybe facilitated by the West’s attitude.”
Those who care for peace are now grappling with the thorny question of weapon deliveries from Western countries to the Ukrainian resistence. A divisive argument for many, an argument that is likely to split asunder the world of Catholics and pacifists. The Holy Father has his doubts on the matter. His doctrine has always rejected the arms race and strongly condemned any escalation in the production of weapons, which might end up being used sooner or later on the battlefield, causing unspeakable horror and suffering. “I can’t answer that question, I live too far away, I don’t know if it is the right thing to supply the Ukrainian fighters,” he tries to reason it out. “What seems indisputable is that in that country both sides are trying out new weapons. The Russians have just found out that tanks are useless and they might be developing new weapons. Wars are fought for this reason too: to test your arsenals. This is what happened in the Spanish Civil War, before the Second World War. The production and the sale of armaments is a disgrace, but few are bold enough to stand up against it. A couple of years ago a ship docked in Genoa, it was loaded with weapons to be transferred to a cargo heading to Yemen. The dock workers refused to shift the freight to the cargo ship, saying, ‘We’re doing this for the children in Yemen.’ It was a small gesture, but for the right cause. I wish there were more people ready to step up and do something about it.”
Pope Bergoglio’s thoughts, throughout our conversation, always seem to turn back to what is right. He has been repeatedly asked for a symbolic visit to Ukraine, but his answer has always been uncompromising. “I am not ready to travel to Kiev, not yet,” he explains. “I have sent my envoy, Cardinal Michael Czerny (head of the Department for the Promotion of Human Development) and Cardinal Konrad Krajewski (the Pope’s Almoner). The latter has just visited Kiev for the fourth time. But I feel that I shouldn’t go there. Not yet. First, I must go to Moscow, I want to meet Putin first of all. But it in the end I am just a priest, what can I possibly achieve? I’ll do what I can. But if Putin decided to leave the door open…”
The Orthodox Church
Is it maybe Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, the one man who could convince Putin to crack that door open? The Holy Father shakes his head and says: “I spoke with Kirill for forty minutes on Zoom. For the first twenty minutes, he read from a piece of paper he was holding in his hand all the reasons that justify the Russian invasion. I listened to him and then replied: I don’t understand any of this. Brother, we are not state clerics, we shouldn’t speak the language of politics, but rather the language of Jesus. We are shepherds of the same holy flock of God. For this reason we must look for a path to peace, we must stop the fighting. A Patriarch can’t lower himself to become Putin’s altar boy. I had a meeting with him, scheduled for June 14, in Jerusalem. It would have been our second face-to-face, nothing to do with the war. But we called it off, we agreed that it could send the wrong message.”
The Way of the Cross
In the past few years Pope Bergoglio did raise the alarm of a world war that was taking place piecemeal in various parts around the world. We now see that he was right and this is something that should shake our conscience. In his view, we have now gone well beyond the initial “piecemeal,” we are striding towards a full-blown Third World War.
“I don’t want to take any credit for the alarm I raised in the past, it was a mere observation of what was really happening. Syria, Yemen, Iraq. In Africa, a string of conflicts one after the other. And in each and every one of them, there are international interests at stake. It’s unthinkable that a free state can unleash a war against another free state. In Ukraine, the conflict was triggered by other actors. The Ukrainians can’t be blamed for having fought back in the Donbass. We are talking of ten years ago. It’s an old argument. The Ukrainians are a proud people, that’s for sure. During the Way of the Cross we had two ladies, a Russian and a Ukrainian, who were asked to read the prayers together. The Ukrainians were outraged. I spoke with Krajewski, who was there with me, and he told me: stop them, don’t let them read the prayer together. He was right, of course, we can’t really understand them. So the two ladies remained silent. They are very touchy, the Ukrainians, maybe because they were defeated and demeaned after the Second World War, and they paid a very heavy price. So many lives lost, they are a martyred people. But let’s not drop our guard, let’s keep an eye on what is happening or could happen in Transnistria next.”
Waiting for May 9th
We are nearing the end of our interview on the war and the summary seems rather bleak. “Not enough people are willing to work for peace,” such is the Pope’s bitter conclusion. “The war is terrible, we must shout it with all our strength. This is the reason why I’ve just published a book with Solferino Publishers with a specific subheading, The courage to build peace. When I met Orban, he told me that the Russians have a precise plan, and that the war will end on May 9th. I sure hope so, that would explain the speed of the military operations in the last few days. Now the Russians have taken not just the Donbass region, but Crimea, Odessa, the ports on the Black Sea, everything. I have a bad feeling about it all, I’ll admit, I’m very pessimistic. However, it is our duty to do all we can to stop the war.”
The politics in Rome
Pope Bergoglio is also paying close attention to the measures the Italian government wants to introduce in this direction. “Italy is working hard and working well, I must say. I enjoy an excellent personal relationship with Mario Draghi. I asked his advice in the past, when he was the director at ECB. He’s friendly and straight-forward. I had a lot of admiration for Giorgio Napolitano, the previous president of Italy, and I hold in high regard his successor, Sergio Mattarella. I also respect Emma Bonino, although I don’t share her views. But she knows Africa better than any of us. She is a woman who deserves the utmost respect.”
The Holy Father is not too keen to talk about Italian politics and politicians. He urges everybody to work with seriousness, integrity and a deep sense of responsibility. Before we say our goodbyes, there is still time to take stock of the Catholic Church, how it is changing and what its future challenges will be. It is an endeavour to which Pope Bergoglio has devoted his entire life. “I have often encountered an old-fashioned mentality that pretends to be open and modern. In other continents, like South America and Africa, it’s been easier. It’s more difficult in Italy, I would say. We do have many excellent priests, nuns, lay people. In order to renew the Italian Church, I found it useful not to replace bishops too frequently. Cardinal Gantin used to say that a bishop is a Spouse of the Church, every bishop is a Spouse of the Church until his death. This is why I prefer to appoint priests, as I have done in Genoa, in Turin, in Calabria. This is the path of renewal for the Italian Church. In our next assembly, we will be voting in a new President of CEI (Italian Bishops Conference), and I am presently looking for one who is willing to introduces significant changes. Personally, I would nominate a cardinal, a respected cardinal. And he should be allowed to choose his own secretary, someone willing to work with and for him.”
The Holy Father’s last thought is reserved to the late Cardinal Martini, in particular to what he considers to be the “perfect” article that Martini wrote on terrorism and war after 9/11. “It is so relevant today that I asked to have it published in the Vatican’s Osservatore Romano. I urge all journalists to keep on researching and investigating what is happening around the world, to keep on telling it as it is. It is your service to the country and I will be forever grateful for all you do.”
(Translation – Rita Baldassarre. Original version, in Italian, here)
Pope Admits NATO Likely Provoked Putin’s Invasion: “Barking At The Gates Of Russia” (link)
Tuesday, May 3, 2022, 11:45 a.m.
Pope Francis has said that he’s ready to meet President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in hopes of brokering an end to the war in Ukraine, according to the Vatican news agencies. He said in an interview published Tuesday by the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, “I am not going to Kyiv for now; I feel that I must not go. First I must go to Moscow. First I must meet Putin. But I am also a priest, what can I do? I do what I can. If Putin would only open the door…”.
The Roman Catholic leader’s criticisms of Russia’s actions in Ukraine were made clear throughout the interview, but among the more interesting and surprising lines came when he addressed the roots of the invasion and war which started on Feb.24. He told the newspaper that “the barking of NATO at the gates of Russia” is likely what motivated Putin to attack Ukraine.
Below is the relevant section of the interview, according to a machine translation from the Italian:
Pope Francis’ concern is that Putin, for the moment, will not stop. He also tries to think about the roots of this behavior, about the reasons that push him to such a brutal war. Perhaps the “barking of NATO at Russia’s door” prompted the head of the Kremlin to react badly and unleash the conflict. “I can’t say if it was provoked, but perhaps, yes.”
Also interesting is that Francis came close to condemning the international weapons transfers now pouring into Ukraine, led by the US which has lately authorized an unprecedented billions in military aid to Ukraine’s government.
“And now those who care about peace are faced with the great question of the supply of weapons by Western nations to the Ukrainian resistance,” the Pope began with his thoughts on this question. He admitted the question is controversial even within the Catholic world.
“I can’t answer, I’m too far away, to the question of whether it is right to supply the Ukrainians,” he said, before taking a swipe at the weapons industry. “The clear thing is that weapons are being tested in that land. The Russians now know that tanks are of little use and are thinking of other things. Wars are fought for this: to test the weapons we have produced.”
“This was the case in the Spanish Civil War before the Second World War. The arms trade is a scandal, few oppose it.” He then invoked the case of the years’-long Saudi-US war on Yemen, describing that “Two or three years ago a ship loaded with weapons arrived in Genoa which had to be transferred to a large freighter to transport them to Yemen. The port workers did not want to do it. They said: let’s think of the children of Yemen. It’s a small thing, but a nice gesture. There should be so many like that.”
Pope Francis’ words have already provoked an angry reaction among some American Catholic clerics…
Reverend Michael Coren on Twitter (@michaelcoren)
“First China and now Russia. @Pontifex is good on some issues but dreadful on others. We must work for peace but this doesn’t preclude naming culprits. Expect the usual “explanations” and the “what he really meant” nonsense.”
On the question of how quickly the war could wind down, Francis recalled an April 21 meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban at the Vatican. Orban relayed that Putin told him of plans to end the war by May 9, which is the commemorative ‘Victory Day’ in Russia.
“I hope that is the case, so we would also understand the escalation of these days,” Francis remarked. He expressed worry about the war’s spread to all of Ukraine. “Because now it’s not just the Donbass, it’s Crimea, it’s Odessa, it’s taking away the Black Sea port from Ukraine.” He concluded on this point, “I am pessimistic but we must do everything possible to stop the war.” He also mused that possibly the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kyrill could try and intervene with Putin, but recounted that in a recent phone call he warned the patriarch not to be “Putin’s altar boy”.
On Monday Russian FM Sergey Lavrov addressed the international speculation over ending operations by May 9th and poured cold water on the reports, saying, “Our military will not artificially adjust their actions to any date, including Victory Day,” and explaining, “The pace of the operation in Ukraine depends, first of all, on the need to minimise any risks for the civilian population and Russian military personnel.”
* * *
The Pope’s comment of “NATO barking at the gates of Russia” also reflects some of the arguments of well-known University of Chicago professor and international relations analyst John Mearsheimer:
Rishi Bagree on Twitter (@rishibagree):
“This Man Predicted The Outcome of #UkraineConflict Way Before Anyone Else…” (link)
[End, Zerohedge article reporting on the Pope’s interview today]
Final note: Prof. Mearsheimer also has been sharply criticized by many, but his presentation of the facts and the arguments he makes offer a certain balance to the narrative being presented in the mainstream media in the West today, so you may find it interesting to take a look at what Prof. Mearsheimer has to say.