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Papal envoy to Ukraine meets with President Zelenskyy, concludes ‘intense’ visit

ncluded a meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. / Credit: Vatican News/YouTube

Pope Francis’ envoy to Ukraine Cardinal Matteo Zuppi on Tuesday finished a “brief but intense” two-day visit to Kyiv, which included a meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“The results of these talks, such as those with religious representatives, as well as the direct experience of the atrocious suffering of the Ukrainian people as a result of the ongoing war, will be brought to the Holy Father’s attention,” the Holy See Press Office said in a bulletin Tuesday. 

Zuppi’s conversations “will undoubtedly be useful in assessing the steps to be taken both on the humanitarian level and in the search for paths to a just and lasting peace,” the bulletin said.

On Tuesday morning, Zuppi stopped to pray at Kyiv’s St. Sophia Cathedral, a historic center of Christianity.

He then met with Zelenskyy and other political leaders. The meeting with the president was “very cordial” according to Avvenire, the newspaper published by the Italian Episcopal Conference.

Zelenskyy, writing on the messaging internet service Telegram, said he and Zuppi discussed the situation in Ukraine and humanitarian cooperation.

“Only joint efforts, diplomatic isolation, and pressure on Russia can bring a just peace on Ukrainian soil,” the president said. “I ask the Holy See to help implement the Ukrainian peace plan. Ukraine welcomes the willingness of other states and partners to find ways to peace, but since the war is on our territory the solution for achieving peace can only be Ukrainian.”

The cardinal thanked Ukraine’s civil authorities for the meetings, especially for the meeting with Ukraine’s president, the Holy See Press Office said.

Last month Pope Francis asked Zuppi, who is archbishop of Bologna and president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, to serve as a papal envoy to “initiate paths of peace” between Russia and Ukraine.

The cardinal has strong ties to the influential peace-building community Sant’Egidio, a lay Catholic association. Sant’Egidio has taken part in peace negotiations in many countries including Mozambique, South Sudan, Congo, Burundi, and the Central African Republic.

On Monday, the first day of his visit, Zuppi visited the town of Bucha about 16 miles west of Kyiv, Vatican News reported. He prayed at the graves of dozens of civilians massacred by Russian troops in March 2022. Many of the victims were tortured and buried in mass graves.

He met with Dmytro Lubinets, the Ukrainian Parliament’s human rights commissioner. Topics of discussion included the treatment of Ukrainian children in Russian-occupied territories and the treatment of prisoners, including civilians.

Also on Monday, the cardinal met with representatives of the Council of Churches and Religious Organizations.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin on May 26 said that Zuppi’s mission does not have mediation as its immediate goal. Rather, his role aims to create a climate for mediation and “help move toward a peaceful solution.”

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