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Cardinal Vincent Nichols defends the Vatican's 'neutral' stance on the war in Ukraine

by Kelly Valencia
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The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales has defended the Vatican's "neutral" position on the war in Ukraine although he doesn't "entertain" that stance himself. 

While Pope Francis has publicly denounced the brutality of the war and has spoken of the sufferings of Ukrainians "defending their land", he has not directly condemned Vladimir Putin for invading Ukraine.  

But the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols said he thinks the Holy See is taking a "certain caution in not out rightly condemning Russia" to improve its chances of acting as a mediator in the conflict. 

"The brutality is utterly condemned. But I think the Holy See is determined to try and keep a window of opportunity open that it might be able to use," Cardinal Nichols said in an interview with journalist Roger Bolton at the Religion Media Centre festival on Monday. 

He continued: "I don't entertain that stance myself. I would say I could not open a conversation with the Russian Orthodox Church…but I respect deeply the international role of the Holy See."

Cardinal Nichols' remarks come days after the second meeting between the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill and the Pope was cancelled. 

Both church leaders were planning to meet again in June but agreed to postpone it because it would send "an ambiguous signal". 

In their first meeting back in March, Patriarch Kirill, called the conflict a "Holy war" and said he saw it as an attempt of protecting Russia against a decadent West while Pope Francis urged Patriarch Kirill to use the "language of Jesus" and not that of politics. 

Cardinal Nicholls continued: "In the face to face conversation that he [Pope Francis] had with Patriarch Kirill, he said to him, 'brother, we are Disciples of Christ. We are not the church of a nation. We are not the puppets of a nation, of a state, and we must speak the language of Christ.'

"He [Pope Francis] would say all of this aggression, this destruction is abominable. It is awful, and it must be brought to a halt. But I think he's still wish to keep that door open," Cardinal Nichols added.  

The 75-year-old Catholic leader also stressed that while he is "deeply disappointed" at the attitude taken by fellow Christians, though of an Orthodox Church in Russia, we should not be so quick to judge them and remember the Russian Orthodox Church's links to the state. 

"The Russian Orthodox Church was re-established by Stalin and its ties to the powers that are in Russia are, I think, quite inhibiting. 

"But I think it's easy from here to say, the Patriarch Kirill should be condemning the actions of Putin and the Russian Armed Forces. My instinct, every instinct is yes, he should be but then I don't wear his shoes. And I'm not under the influences that he is under," Cardinal Nichols concluded.  

There are calls for the World Council of Churches, which represents roughly 580 million Christians around the world, to oust the Russian Orthodox Church from its ranks when it meets in June. 

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