Pope Francis said Friday he understood why governments buy weapons to defend themselves in a world wracked by war, as he prepared to preside over a traditional Easter procession. Francis has previously said spending money on weapons “stains” humanity.
“I understand those governments that buy arms, I understand them,” the pontiff said in an interview with Italy’s Rai ahead of the religious ceremony at the Colosseum. “I do not justify them, but I understand them. Because we have to defend ourselves”.
Ukrainian and Russian women are expected this year to carry a cross at the Via Crucis procession, which is held on Good Friday, the day in the Christian calendar that Jesus was crucified. Ukraine’s ambassador to the Holy See expressed “concerns” Tuesday over the plan, against a backdrop of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The procession commemorates Jesus’ suffering and death, from his condemnation to his burial. The pope will preside over it for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic broke out.
A scaled-down version of the procession was held in 2020 and 2021 within Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican. Francis, who has repeatedly pleaded for an end to the Russian invasion, said the whole “world is at war”.
He slammed “this diabolic pattern of killing one another out of the desire for power, the desire for security, the desire for many things”. The 85-year old on Thursday visited a prison in Civitavecchia, near Rome, to wash the feet of 12 inmates in a rite performed yearly to commemorate Christ’s Last Supper with the apostles.
In Christian tradition, Jesus is said to have washed the apostles’ feet ahead of the meal in a gesture of humility. On Saturday evening, Francis will preside over the Easter vigil in Saint Peter’s Basilica, followed by Easter Mass on Sunday morning, after which he will perform the traditional “Urbi et Orbi” blessing.