Pope Francis on Wednesday ripped the West’s 20-year involvement in Afghanistan — and mistakenly quoted Russian President Vladimir Putin in the process.
The 84-year-old pontiff was asked during a radio interview aired in Spain Wednesday about his thoughts on this week’s withdrawal of troops by the US and its allies, ending America’s longest war.
He said his thoughts were best summed up in a quote by Germany’s Angela Merkel, whom he called “one of the world’s greatest political figures” — before actually quoting Putin’s latest attack on the West.
“It is necessary to put an end to the irresponsible policy of intervening from outside and building democracy in other countries, ignoring the traditions of the peoples,” the pope said, using his own translation into Spanish.
The words were spoken Aug. 20 by the Russian president in the presence of Merkel, during her visit to Moscow.
Putin had scathingly criticized the West over Afghanistan, saying that the Taliban’s rapid sweep over the country has shown the futility of attempts to enforce democracy.
Merkel — whom Francis thought he was quoting — had urged Russia to use its contacts with the Taliban to make sure Afghan citizens who helped the West would be allowed to leave Afghanistan.
Far from the quote Francis attributed to Merkel, the German leader had instead insisted that “we did not want to force any system on Afghanistan.”
“But we saw that millions of girls were glad to go to school and that women could participate. There are many in Afghanistan who are very, very unhappy about developments now,” she said of the threats to that new way of life since the withdrawal.
The pope’s interview with Spain’s Cadena COPE took place at the Vatican late last week, and aired Wednesday after he vetted the contents.
He said he believed that the Vatican’s top diplomat was offering to engage in Afghanistan to make sure that locals don’t suffer and called for Christians across the world to engage in “prayer, penance and fasting” in the face of events in Afghanistan.
Francis also used the interview to deny a report in Italian newspaper Libero that he was thinking of resigning, saying he is living “a totally normal life” following intestinal surgery in July.
“I don’t know where they got it from last week that I was going to resign … it didn’t even cross my mind,” he insisted.
With Post wires