Italian Archbishop Bruno Forte said Sunday that Vladimir Putin’s religious defense of his war of aggression on Ukraine is a “sacrilegious act.”

“Putin no longer manages to find arguments to excuse the disaster he has caused,” Archbishop Forte told the Italian daily La Stampa. “His was a sacrilegious act, an instrumentalization of the gospel in an attempt to justify himself.”

The archbishop was referring to a statement made Friday evening by Russian President Vladimir Putin during a pro-war rally in Moscow, in which he cited Jesus as saying: “Greater love has no man than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Recourse to the Bible “shows Putin’s profound weakness since he cannot find any more arguments in support of his propaganda,” Forte declared.

A pedestrian looks at a cloud of smoke rising after an explosion in Lviv, Western Ukraine, Friday, March 18, 2022. The mayor of Lviv says missiles struck near the city's airport early Friday. The early morning attack on Lviv's edge was the closest strike yet to the center of the city, which has become a crossroads for people fleeing from other parts of Ukraine and for others entering to deliver aid or fight. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

A pedestrian looks at a cloud of smoke rising after an explosion in Lviv, Western Ukraine, Friday, March 18, 2022.  (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

“The death of innocent victims because of this war cannot be legitimized with words from the gospel,” he continued. “The leader of the Russian Federation adds to the very grave guilt with which he is staining himself that of a true blasphemy: naming God to justify the evil done is the apex of immorality and madness.”

Putin “instrumentalizes the sacred as people might have in eras of barbarous violence, in the darkest of the Middle Ages,” he continued. “A serene and free awareness of the faith could never accept this.”

Moreover, his horrendous attacks on innocent civilians demonstrate “the imperialistic logic of a leader who at all costs wants to subjugate others,” Forte said.

“Europe thought it had achieved democratic victories that were impossible to lose,” he said. “And yet we find ourselves before this war criminal who strikes a helpless and innocent people.”

The archbishop’s condemnation was not limited to the Russian leader alone, but also spilled over to Patriarch Kirill, a supporter of Putin and the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.

“It hurts to hear the head of the Russian Church taking the side of the aggressor and giving a religious green light to a deplorable conflict,” Forte said. “I think Kirill has subordinated the gospel to a political power, which leaves us disconcerted, an act of unheard-of gravity.”

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