Pope calls for negotiations

IssueApril - May 2024
News by PN staff

Pope Francis caught the headlines in March, calling for negotiations to end the Ukraine War. The pope has made dozens of calls for peace talks in this war, but this is the only time that he’s gained significant attention. This was because the language that he used was distorted into an anti-negotiations weapon, with the claim that the pope asked Ukraine to ‘raise the white flag’ of surrender.

The pope didn’t talk about ‘raising the white flag’ in his recorded interview with Swiss television; he talked about ‘the courage of the white flag’. 

White flags have two meanings in warfare. They are carried on the battlefield by unarmed negotiators approaching an enemy for talks. They can also be waved to signal that you are surrendering.

The pope’s press officer, Matteo Bruni, made it clear that the pope had used the image of the white flag (first raised by his interviewer) ‘to indicate a cessation of hostilities, a truce reached with the courage of negotiation.’

This is what the pope actually said in the interview: ‘But I believe the stronger person is the one who looks at the situation, thinks of the people, and has the courage of the white flag and negotiates’ (‘Ma credo che è più forte quello che vede la situazione, pensa al popolo e ha il coraggio di la bandera bianca e negoziare’). 

The pope did also say, of the Ukraine War: ‘When you see that you are defeated, that things are not going well, it is necessary to have the courage to negotiate.’ However, elsewhere in the same interview, he also made clear that: ‘Negotiations are never a surrender.’

The pope has been calling for a negotiated end to the Ukraine War, and offering the Vatican as an intermediary, since the full-scale Russian invasion on 24 February 2022.

For example, less than three weeks later, on 13 March 2022, Francis said: ‘In the name of God, let the cries of those who suffer be heard and let the bombings and attacks cease! Let there be a real and decisive focus on negotiation, and let the humanitarian corridors be effective and safe. In the name of God, I ask you: stop this massacre!’