The Vatican

The first step of the Vatican "peace mission" for Ukraine culminates with "useful results".

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi returned late Tuesday evening, June 6, to the Vatican after a fleeting trip to Kiev, as envoy of the Holy Father.

Maria José Atienza-June 7, 2023-Reading time: 2 minutes
ukraine zuppi

Photo: Zuppi in Kiev with Ukrainian parliamentarian Dmytro Lubinets ©OSV News/courtesy Ombudsman of Ukraine

The Archbishop of Bologna and President of the Italian Episcopal Conference, Matteo Zuppi, completed his visit to Kiev. He stayed there for about 30 hours, in what seems to be the first step of the mission that the Vatican has launched to promote a peace agreement between Russia and Ukraine, more than a year after Russia invaded the neighboring country.

According to the note published by the Holy See on the return of the Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, the results of this "brief but intense" trip seem to be useful for "evaluating the steps to be taken both at the humanitarian level and in the search for paths to a just and lasting peace".

In these hours that the Cardinal, a member of the Sant'Egidio community, has spent in the Ukrainian capital, he has been able to hold a series of key dialogues.

Particularly interesting seems to have been the Cardinal's meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyi who, last May, personally visited the Holy Father.

The note also pointed out that "the direct experience of the atrocious sufferings of the Ukrainian people because of the ongoing war will be brought to the attention of the Holy Father".

It is still too early to assess what will be the outcome of this mission personally promoted by Pope Francis, the fact is that this is the first public diplomatic move of the Holy See. The next step, which would correspond to a visit to Russia, has not yet been confirmed by either the Holy See or the Putin government. In fact, the Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, denied that a meeting between Zuppi and the Russian government was on the agenda for the moment.

Although the Pope went to the Russian Federation's embassy to the Holy See at the beginning of the invasion and has held talks with Zelensky, the Vatican diplomatic steps in this conflict have been marked by a great deal of caution.

Although he has been hovering steadily in the air since March 2022, the Holy Father has given no indication of an imminent visit to Ukraine and Russia. A possibility that, as he has stated on some occasions, he wishes to carry out in order to serve the cause of peace.

Humanitarian care and prayer

Zuppi is not the first papal envoy to Ukraine, although he is the first cardinal with a specifically diplomatic rather than humanitarian mission. A few weeks after the conflict began, Pope Francis sent to the area a Cardinals Czerny and Krajewski from March 7 to 11, 2022. Of these, the papal almoner has visited the country three more times, most recently in December 2022 to deliver electric generators and thermal clothing to the refugees to face the winter.

Moreover, in these more than 28 months of conflict, the Pope has not ceased to ask for prayers for peace between Ukraine and Russia. In addition to renewing the consecration of Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of the Virgin Mary, in March 2022, the Pope held an affectionate meeting with Sviatoslav Shevchuk,  the major archbishop of Kiev-Hali, who went to Rome in November 2022 to bring the sentiments of Ukraine directly to Pope Francis.

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