Pope Francis was highly critical of the West’s recent involvement in Afghanistan, mistakenly quoting Russian President Vladimir Putin while thinking he was quoting Germany’s Angela Merkel.
“It’s necessary to stop the irresponsible policy of enforcing its own values on others and attempts to build democracy in other countries based on outside models without taking into account historic, ethnic and religious issues and fully ignoring other people’s traditions,” said the pope in his misattributed quote, which he translated into Spanish, according to Fox News.
His comments were made late last week in a radio interview with Spain’s Cadena COPE, in which the pope was asked about the situation in Afghanistan, now controlled by the Taliban, after 20 years of war. The full interview was broadcast on Wednesday, Sept. 1.
Prior to his appointment, the Pope described German Chancellor Merkel as “one of the most important political figures in the world.”
However, it was the Russian president who uttered the words in August in the presence of Mekel during her visit to Moscow.
During the Aug. 20 meeting, Putin sharply criticized the West for its intervention in Afghanistan, saying that the Taliban’s rapid advance on the country has demonstrated the futility of Western attempts to enforce its own vision of democracy.
In the interview, the Pope assured that the Vatican Secretariat of State is using diplomacy to ensure that the people of Afghanistan do not suffer reprisals from the new extremist Taliban government.
“Yes. I am sure that the Secretariat of State is doing so,” Pope Francis said when asked if the Vatican could use diplomatic resources to stop any kind of repression against Afghan society.
The pope further stated that the decision to withdraw foreign troops from Afghanistan, which was completed on Tuesday, Aug. 31, “did not take into account” all the consequences that could ensue.
“No, the way to negotiate a resignation, an exit. It seems—I don’t want to judge—that not all eventualities were taken into account,” the Pope said when asked why the people of Afghanistan were left to their fate.
“I don’t know if there will be any revision (of what happened during the withdrawal), but there was much deceiving from the new authorities (of Afghanistan),” said the pope. “Either that or just too much ingenuity. Otherwise, I don’t understand,” he said.
Pope Francis also used the interview to deny a report in the Italian newspaper Libero that he was thinking of resigning, saying he is living “a totally normal life” after intestinal surgery in July.
“I don’t know where they got it from last week that I was going to resign … it never even crossed my mind,” he insisted.
Two weeks ago, when the conflict in the Middle East erupted with the Taliban takeover of Kabul, the pontiff called for a dialogue to be opened so that the population could return to living in peace.
With the final withdrawal of U.S. troops and their allies, on the Aug. 31 deadline for evacuation, total and absolute control of the country was left in the hands of the Taliban fundamentalist group.