Pope Francis wrongly attributed Russian President Vladimir Putin's quote to German Chancellor Angela Merkel as he criticized the United States-led West's involvement in Afghanistan. “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,” the pope said, using his own translation into Spanish, during a radio interview aired Wednesday. He was responding to a question about the new political scenario in Afghanistan after the United States and its allies withdrew from the country after 20 years of war, paving the way for Taliban's return to power.
The pope described Merkel as “one of the world's greatest political figures.” The words with which the pope chose to answer the question were spoken by Putin during Merkel's visit to Moscow on August 20 as the Russian president launched a scathing attack against West over Afghanistan. Putin said the Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan had shown the futility of Western attempts to enforce its own vision of democracy even as Merkel urged Russia to use its clout to press the Taliban for allowing Afghan citizens who helped Germany to leave Afghanistan.
The pope's interview with Spain's Cadena COPE took place at the Vatican and the radio station owned by Spain's Catholic bishops' conference aired the talk on Wednesday. The content had been vetted by the pope himself.
Francis also said Western allies did not take “all eventualities" into account while planning their exit from Afghanistan.
"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.”
Francis called for Christians across the world to engage in “prayer, penance and fasting” for Afghanistan.
(With Inputs from Associated Press)