When the Pope Meets Putin, Ukraine Needs to Fear

Pope Francis meets President of Russian Federation Vladimir Putin
Vatican Pool/Getty Images

When the Pope Meets Putin, Ukraine Needs to Fear

The Ukraine crisis is also about religion.

The Vatican’s role in Ukraine is perplexing to many. Ukrainian Christians are crying out to Pope Francis—but are ignored. The pope has condemned Islamic terrorism as well as the Jan. 6, 2021, United States Capitol protests. He has strongly opposed other conflicts and leaders. But he refuses to say anything negative about Russian President Vladimir Putin and the bloodshed he threatens in Ukraine. His message to Ukrainians can be, at best, interpreted as one of appeasement and, at worst, of surrender.

Though it appears the pope is looking the other way, there are indications the Vatican has deep personal interests in the conflict. These interests seem to be known by high-ranking German military officers but have been hid from the public. The Vatican and Moscow may have made a historic, well-calculated deal.

When Pope Francis asked for prayers of peace for Ukraine on January 26, he prayed “that the country may grow in the spirit of brotherhood and that all hurts, fears and divisions will be overcome.” In contrast, he said last year’s U.S. Capitol protests “must be condemned.” Why is the pope silent about the deadly pro-Russia separatist forces in Donbas, Ukraine? And the more than 100,000 troops deployed around the Ukrainian border?

Putin likely would say “Amen” to the pope’s prayer, hoping the divisions and separation could be healed by erasing the border. But Ukrainians so far have not surrendered their independence. Some feel betrayed by the pope’s words; others feel encouraged. Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill, along with Putin, thanked the Vatican for its involvement in Ukraine. But while Russian authorities rejoice, Ukrainians are mourning. Instead of calling a spade a spade and addressing the aggressor, the pope called the Ukraine crisis an internal conflict.

Why doesn’t Pope Francis stand with Ukraine? Religiously and politically, Ukraine has sought communion with the Vatican and Germany but has received a cold shoulder from both.

In 2018, the Russian Orthodox Church lost its grip over Ukraine. Speculations ran wild of what it could mean in the world of Christianity and even geopolitically. For centuries, the country’s Orthodox Church was effectively under Russian control. When the church in Ukraine decided to declare independence and set up a national church, it seemed to be an obvious opportunity for the Vatican to play a more important role. Kirill and Putin were upset.

Since the 1596 Union of Brest-Litovsk, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, also called Ukrainian Catholic Church, has been in communion with Rome. Currently representing 15 percent of Ukrainians, the church is the largest of the Eastern Catholic churches. On Feb. 5, 2015, Crux noted: “During the Soviet era, no church produced more martyrs in percentage terms or suffered more vicious crackdowns. In light of that history, Greek Catholics become understandably nervous anytime they see Russian forces crossing their borders, or insurgents armed and supported by Moscow trying to slice off pieces of Ukrainian territory.” Therefore, it would be in the interest of the Vatican to take millions of Ukrainian Catholics under its wings.

Politically the country has also been seeking to become part of the Western system. Even in the recent crisis the mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, pleaded to become a part of “the European family.” Yet he said in an interview with Bild, “[T]hat doesn’t fit the image of the Russian government. It wants to build a big Russian or Soviet empire again.”

The Vatican and Germany had the opportunity to bind Ukraine to their sphere of influence—but they didn’t take it. The Catholic Church even risked losing unity with the Greek Orthodox Church in favor of pleasing Russia. Why?

The Vatican’s ultimate goal is to unite all Christians under its wings. But to accomplish this goal, it has to see the big picture. Seeking closer communion with Ukraine would have offended Russia—home to the largest population of Eastern Orthodox Christians. Next to the Catholic Church, Russia’s Orthodox Church is, by some counts, the second-largest Christian denomination—though it is closely aligned with the Russian state. The Russian Orthodox Church submits to the rule of Putin. By keeping Ukraine under the thumb of the Russian Orthodox Church, Putin has also increased the likelihood of Ukrainians submitting to him.

Ukraine sought independence, however, so he had to take up more violent measures and ensure Europe and the Vatican stay away. The fact that they did appears to indicate Putin and the pope made a deal. This is not surprising considering the high regard the two have for each other. “The Kremlin sees the Vatican as a multidimensional power—bigger, in some ways, than what Russia considers ‘the West,’” wrote Anna Nemtsova in the Daily Beast in 2016.

Ukrainians Feel Betrayed

The Vatican’s message to the churches in Ukraine has been, Keep the people calm. Asking them to submit has made many Ukrainians feel betrayed. On Feb. 5, 2015, Crux noted:

Many Ukrainian Catholics believe the pontiff went too far this week in an effort to prove to Russia, and especially the Russian Orthodox Church, that he doesn’t want to pick a fight. On Wednesday, Francis described the current violence in eastern Ukraine as “fratricidal,” when most Ukrainians would say it’s actually the product of foreign aggression by Moscow.

The result, many Ukrainians feel, is that Francis (perhaps inadvertently) threw their country under the bus for the sake of being “ecumenically correct,” meaning not irritating the Russian Orthodox.

“It shows the ignorance of the pope about the situation in Ukraine,” said Anatolij Babynskyj, editor of a prominent Greek Catholic journal, who blamed “pro-Russian forces at the Vatican” for distorting the pope’s view. …

“I think of you, Ukrainian brothers and sisters, this is a war between Christians,” he said. Calling the conflict a scandal, he pointed out that all those involved have the same baptism.

Francis urged prayer, saying “prayer is our protest before God in times of war.”

To Ukrainian Catholic ears, to be frank, all that sounded uncomfortably like appeasement.

Years on and various meetings and conversations with Putin later, the pope’s message to Ukrainians remains the same.

Ever since 2013, when Putin increased his efforts to swallow up Ukraine, the pope has often spoken of peace, but he has never condemned Putin’s actions. Notice what Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote on Monday in “Why Germany Just Betrayed America”: “Again in 2015, as tensions mounted in Ukraine, Putin traveled to the Vatican to meet with the pope. Did these two come to some kind of agreement?” (To learn more about the complex relations between the two, please read “Why Is the Pope Pro-Putin?”)

It’s not that the pope’s hands are bound and that he couldn’t find harsher words against Putin due to his religious office. Pope Francis compared U.S. President Donald Trump’s policies to those of Adolf Hitler. But with Putin, the pope appears to have a sort of friendship.

In a December 17 birthday telegraph to the pope, Putin wrote: “It is hard to overestimate your personal contribution to the development of relations between the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, and to the strengthening of the Russian-Vatican ties. I am certain that, with our joint efforts, we will be able to do a lot to protect the rights and interests of the Christians and to ensure the multi-confessional [or interfaith] dialogue.” Earlier in the month, Francis said that “a meeting with Patriarch Kirill is not far on the horizon.”

Mr. Flurry asked in light of the recent escalation: “Has Putin promised some kind of restoration between the Russian Orthodox Church and Rome in exchange for papal support in Ukraine?” This would be a tremendous agreement. Russia gets to expand its territory and the Vatican comes closer to its goal of uniting with its daughter churches. The pope cares little about Ukraine and Putin cares little about religion, but what both gain from it fulfills long aspirations.

A Catholic Spirit in the German Military

Few consider these religious components in the recent conflict. But even high-ranking German military generals are aware of it and base their strategic plans on it. For example, the head of Germany’s Navy, Adm. Kay-Achim Schönbach, downplayed Russia’s aggressions and said Russia and Germany should unite due to their common Christian heritage. Due to public outcry, Schönbach was forced to resign, but others backed his stance.

Schönbach told an Indian think tank: “Russia is an old country; Russia is an important country. Even we, India and Germany, need Russia, because we need Russia against China. … I am a very radical Roman Catholic. I believe in God, and I believe in Christianity. And Russia is a Christian country, even if Putin is an atheist, it doesn’t matter. We need this big country even if it isn’t a democracy, as a bilateral partner. We need to give them a chance [to cooperate] with the [European Union] and with the U.S. on eye level. It is easy and probably holds Russia away from China. China needs the resources from Russia, and they are willing to give them because our sanctions sometimes do go the wrong way.”

Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany, Andrij Melnyk, said Schönbach’s statements reminded him of the Nazi era: “Ukrainians also unconsciously felt reminded of the horrors of the Nazi occupation when Ukrainians were treated as subhumans in this condescending attitude.” He added that the remarks speak of “German arrogance and megalomania, with which one of the highest-ranking heads of the Bundeswehr dreams of a holy alliance with war criminal Putin and a German-Russian modern crusade against China.”

In 1815, a “Holy Alliance” between the leaders of Russia, Prussia and Austria was formed “to promote the influence of Christian principles in the affairs of nations,” the Encyclopedia Britannica wrote. Europe’s religious cooperation with Russia has historical precedent. But this time, the two countries appear to be headed for an even stronger—though temporary—union.

The Vatican’s and Germany’s cooperation with Russia is not just concerning, it is most alarming.

A Prophetic Alliance

In 2008, after Russia invaded Georgia, Mr. Flurry wrote, “Russia and Germany fear each other. … [L]ook at history. Every time competition between Russia and Germany heats up, they form a deal with one another—just before going to war! … The presence of a deal between these two nations is not a sign of peace. Like the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, and so many others before it, it is a sign of exactly the opposite. Both of these nations are looking to secure their shared border—so they can pursue their imperialistic aims elsewhere! It is a precursor to war!” (Read Mr. Flurry’s article “Why Germany Just Betrayed America” to learn how Germany is entering an alliance with Russia to the detriment of the U.S.)

If you understand this deal along with the Vatican’s recent actions, it becomes increasingly clear that an ominous agreement has been made. The agreement becomes even more ominous when you understand the Bible’s prophecies that foretold it.

Revelation 17 is a biblical prophecy that explains what is happening behind the scenes in politics today. Verses 1-3 read: “And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.” This is speaking of a political empire controlled by a church—a beast ridden by a woman. The woman is called a whore because the church has committed fornications with the kingdoms of the world. The chapter indicates that this church has a global influence and can refer to no other than the Catholic Church. (Request a free copy of Who or What Is the Prophetic Beast? for more information.)

The state controls the church in Russia; but in this empire, the church controls the state. In history, this empire is referred to as the Holy Roman Empire—and it is rising again to unprecedented power, just as prophesied.

The same church is also described in Isaiah 47. In this chapter, the Catholic Church is prophesied to regain its daughter churches. This mother church is prophesied as saying, “[N]either shall I know the loss of children” (verse 8). Based on these prophecies, the Plain Truth, under the direction of Herbert W. Armstrong, wrote: “The final—albeit short-lived—triumph of Catholicism is recorded in literally dozens of Bible prophecies. … The mighty problem of achieving unity is twofold. First, it involves reconciliation of the Orthodox Schism that officially commenced in 1054 and divided the churches in the East.”

The fact that the Catholic Church works so furiously to heal the division proves the accuracy of the Bible. What’s more, it is remarkable to observe how closely the policies of Germany and the Vatican align.

It appears both Germany and the Vatican are working on uniting the “Christian” churches of east and west. The military generals may have their own goals but they seem to be aware of what the church wants. Though we certainly don’t know exactly how the events will unfold, we can be certain in the prophesied destiny. Properly understanding these prophecies should fill you with hope and urgency!