A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Poland said Friday that no formal discussions took place when the Russian ambassador attended a reception at the Vatican’s embassy in Warsaw.
The paper said that since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, Russian representatives in Poland have not been invited to official diplomatic ceremonies or events where they would be seen alongside Polish politicians.
Rzeczpospolita quoted an unnamed source close to Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs as saying that Polish officials were “dismayed” by the nunciature’s invitation.
“In fact, we shouldn’t be surprised by the invitation to the Russian ambassador, since the Vatican has a rather mild policy with regard to Russia. Just listen to the pope,” the source said. “But, in any case, other guests have been put in a very uncomfortable situation by the nuncio.”
The Polish bishops’ conference said in an Oct. 28 statement that its spokesman, Fr. Leszek Gęsiak S.J., had asked the nunciature for information about the event.
“He received an explanation that Wednesday’s meeting of ambassadors at the nunciature was a customary farewell and welcome meeting marking the end or beginning of some of their missions,” the bishops’ conference said.
“It is periodically organized by the apostolic nuncio, as dean of the diplomatic corps, for ambassadors accredited in Warsaw. During this meeting, which was of a routine nature, no formal discussions were held.”
The Italian Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, a veteran Vatican diplomat, has served as the pope’s representative in Warsaw since 2016.
Poland is one of Ukraine’s strongest supporters in its struggle against Russia and has welcomed millions of Ukrainian refugees since February.
Ambassador Andreev was covered in red paint by anti-war protesters in Warsaw in May. He was summoned to Poland’s foreign ministry in October after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced plans to illegally annex Ukrainian territory.
Pope Francis has repeatedly called for peace in Ukraine. In his Angelus address on Oct. 2, he appealed directly to Putin, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and world leaders to bring an end to the war.
The Holy See’s stance on the Ukraine war has been criticized frequently within Polish Church circles, as well as in Ukraine and within the international community. Critics say the pope’s statements have equated the two sides of the conflict in a general plea for peace and condemnation of the war, rather than a strong and clear condemnation of Russia as the aggressor.
Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, president of Poland’s Catholic bishops’ conference, said in May that the Vatican’s approach to Russia was “naive and utopian.”
“The Holy See should understand that in its relations with Russia it should be more cautious, to say the least, because from the experience of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, it seems that lying is second nature to Russian diplomacy,” the archbishop commented.