US Ambassador to the Holy See meets Ukrainian refugee born in bomb shelter

Courtney Mares   By Courtney Mares for CNA


Joe Donnelly, the new US ambassador to the Holy See, meets with Ukrainian refugees in Rome, Italy, on April 21, 2022. / US Embassy to the Holy See.

Rome, Italy, May 5, 2022 / 05:35 am (CNA).

Within weeks of his arrival in Rome, the new U.S. ambassador to the Holy See encountered a Ukrainian mother who had given birth to her baby in a bomb shelter amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ambassador Joe Donnelly spoke in an interview published on May 5 about his “very emotional” meeting with Ukrainian families who found refuge in Italy after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

During a visit to the refugee welcome center operated by the Catholic Community of Sant’Egidio, the ambassador said that one of the first families he met had an infant that was less than two months old.

“That baby had been born in a bomb shelter underneath the hospital, and the parents took off after the child had been born to come here to Italy on a one-month bus ride,” Donnelly said in an interview with Vatican News, the online news portal of the Holy See.

“Think about bringing a newborn child first, bringing a newborn child into this world, in a bomb shelter underneath a hospital, then a one-month bus ride to a country where you have never been before. And you are at Sant’Egidio now, to try to have the opportunity to have a place to sleep, to be able to make sure that your child is safe, and that you can have something to eat.”

“That’s the situation that the Russians created by attacking Ukraine,” he said.

The ambassador, who presented his credentials to Pope Francis in a meeting on April 11, said that much of his discussion with the pope centered on the ongoing war in Ukraine.

“When I was with Pope Francis, a large block of our time was about his heartbreak concerning Ukraine, about the people being killed, the bombings that were occurring, and expressing we want to do everything we can to help create peace,” he said.

“I know the pope has called for a ceasefire, and we support that in the United. States, but we also support that Ukraine is an independent nation. We stand with the Ukrainian nation. We stand with the Ukrainian people.”

According to the United Nations, more than 5.7 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion a little more than two months ago.

Italy has welcomed over 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, mostly women and minors, according to statistics released by the Italian Interior Ministry on May 4.

Donnelly said: “This small planet that we are part of, that we’ve been given stewardship of, we have an obligation to protect and defend. You see now in situations like Ukraine, where there are millions of refugees coming across or refugees elsewhere in the world where opportunities for people to take advantage of others, especially through human trafficking.”

“We want to stand together with the Church, with the Holy See, to help prevent that.”

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