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Cardinal Zuppi traveling to Washington to promote peace in Ukraine

July 17, 2023 Catholic News Agency 1
President of the Italian Bishops’ Conference Cardinal Matteo Maria Zuppi (center) attends the consistory for the creation of new cardinals at St. Peter’s Basilica on Aug. 27, 2022, in Vatican City. / Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Rome Newsroom, Jul 17, 2023 / 05:25 am (CNA).

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, the Italian prelate tasked by Pope Francis to head a peace mission between Ukraine and Russia, is traveling to Washington, D.C. this week, the Vatican announced.

The cardinal’s visit comes only weeks after the Biden administration announced it was sending an additional $800 million in weapons to aid Ukraine’s counteroffensive — including morally problematic “cluster bombs” that have been banned by most countries, including the Holy See.

Zuppi, who has already visited both Ukraine and Russia, will be in the U.S. capital from July 17-19 and will be accompanied by an official from the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.

“The visit will take place in the context of the peace promotion mission in Ukraine and aims to exchange ideas and views on the current tragic situation and to support humanitarian initiatives to alleviate the suffering of the most affected and most fragile people, especially children,” read the Vatican statement announcing Cardinal Zuppi’s visit.

The Vatican has not disclosed with whom Zuppi will meet during his three-day visit.

Pope Francis’ envoy to Ukraine Cardinal Matteo Zuppi on June 6, 2023, finished a “brief but intense” two-day visit to Kyiv, which included a meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Credit: Vatican News/YouTube
Pope Francis’ envoy to Ukraine Cardinal Matteo Zuppi on June 6, 2023, finished a “brief but intense” two-day visit to Kyiv, which included a meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Credit: Vatican News/YouTube

The United States has been a major provider of military support to Ukraine since the country was invaded by Russia on Feb. 24, 2022. To date, the U.S. has sent $41.3 billion in military aid to the Eastern European country, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

The latest round of support has drawn criticism from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), as well as bishops conferences from other countries, for its inclusion of cluster bombs in the military package. Cluster bombs present an especially grave threat to civilians given that they impact indiscriminately large areas and often do not explode until long after impact.

One hundred twenty-three countries signed the 2008 Convention on Cluster Bombs, which explicitly bans the use, transfer, production, and stockpiling of the munitions. The U.S., however, along with Russia and Ukraine, are not signatories of the convention.

In a statement following the Biden administration’s announcement, Bishop David Malloy, head of the USCCB’s international justice and peace committee, underscored that the U.S. bishops have long advocated the U.S. government to sign the convention.

“Pope Francis has addressed the conventions on antipersonnel mines and cluster munitions, exhorting all countries to commit to these conventions ‘so that there are no more mine victims,’” Malloy wrote.

“While recognizing Ukraine’s right to self-defense, we must continue to pray for dialogue and peace,” he added. “I join with our Holy Father in supporting and sharing in his moral concern and aspiration.”

Cardinal Zuppi has played a prominent role in promoting peace between Ukraine and Russia since Pope Francis asked him in May to lead a peace mission on behalf of the Vatican. The cardinal, who is the archbishop of Bologna and the president of the Italian bishops’ conference, has strong ties to the influential peace-building community Sant’Egidio, a lay Catholic association that has taken part in peace negotiations in many countries including Mozambique, South Sudan, Congo, Burundi, and the Central African Republic.

As part of his peace mission, he visited Kyiv June 5-6, meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other political and religious leaders. The papal envoy then visited Moscow from June 28-29, a trip that included a meeting with Patriarch Kirill, the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church.


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To counter ‘third world war,’ Pope Francis proposes ‘truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom’

January 9, 2023 Catholic News Agency 2
Pope Francis addresses international diplomats to the Holy See on Jan. 9, 2023, in the Vatican’s Blessing Hall. / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Jan 9, 2023 / 06:28 am (CNA).

The global community is engaged in a “third world war” marked by heightened fear, conflict, and risk of nuclear violence, but a recommitment to “truth, justice, solidarity and freedom” can provide a pathway to peace, Pope Francis told international diplomats Monday.

Citing the ongoing war in Ukraine, but also drawing on conflicts in places such as Syria, West Africa, Ethiopia, Israel, Myanmar, and the Korean Peninsula, the Holy Father said this global struggle is being “fought piecemeal,” but is nonetheless interconnected.

“Today the third world war is taking place in a globalized world where conflicts involve only certain areas of the planet direct, but in fact involve them all,” said Pope Francis, speaking in the Vatican’s apostolic palace.

The pope made these remarks as part of his annual address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See. Pope Francis characterized this speech as “a call for peace in a world that is witnessing heightened divisions and war.”

Pope Francis addresses diplomats to the Holy See in the Blessing Hall at the Vatican on Jan. 9, 2023. Vatican Media
Pope Francis addresses diplomats to the Holy See in the Blessing Hall at the Vatican on Jan. 9, 2023. Vatican Media

As part of this heightening of tensions, the Pope warned about the increased threat of nuclear warfare, drawing particular concern to the stall in negotiations for the Iran nuclear deal. He told the gathered diplomats that the possession of nuclear weapons is “immoral” and called for an end to a mentality that pursues conflict deterrence through the development of ever-more lethal means of warfare.

“There is a need to change this way of thinking and move toward an integral disarmament, since no peace is possible when instruments of death are proliferating,” the pope said.

In proposing a path towards global peace, the Holy Father drew heavily from Pacem in Terris (“Peace on Earth”), the papal encyclical promulgated by St. John XXIII in 1962. Pope Francis said the conditions which prompted the “good Pope” to issue Pacem in Terris 60 years ago bear a striking similarity to the state of the world today.

In particular, the Holy Father drew from what John XXIII described as the “four fundamental goods” necessary for peace: truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom, values that “serve as the pillars that regulate relationships between individuals and political communities alike.”

Regarding “peace in truth,” the Holy Father underscored the “primary duty” of governments to protect the right to life at every stage of human life.

“Peace requires before all else the defense of life, a good that today is jeopardized not only by conflicts, hunger, and diseases, but all too often in the mother’s womb, through promotion of an alleged ‘right to abortion,’” said Pope Francis, also calling for an end to the death penalty and violence against women.

Speaking of the necessity of religious freedom for peace, the Holy Father noted widespread religious persecution against Christian minorities, but also discrimination in countries where Christianity is a majority religion.

“Religious freedom is also endangered wherever believers see their ability to express their convictions in the life of society restricted in the name of a misguided understanding of inclusiveness,” he said.

Regarding justice, the Holy Father called for a “profound rethinking” of multilateral systems such as the United Nations to make them more effective at responding to conflicts like the war in Ukraine. But he also criticized international bodies for “imposing forms of ideological colonization, especially on poorer countries” and warned of the growing risk of “ideological totalitarianism” that promotes intolerance towards those who dissent from certain positions claimed to represent ‘progress.’”

Pope Francis visits with international diplomats accredited to the Holy See on Jan. 9, 2023, at the Vatican. Vatican Media
Pope Francis visits with international diplomats accredited to the Holy See on Jan. 9, 2023, at the Vatican. Vatican Media

The Holy Father also spoke of the need to deepen a sense of global solidarity, citing four areas of interconnectedness: immigration, the economy and work, and care for creation,

“The paths of peace are paths of solidarity, for no one can be saved alone. We live in a world interconnected that, in the end, the actions of each have consequences for all.”

Finally, regarding “peace in freedom,” Pope Francis warned of the “weakening of democracy” in many parts of the world, and an increase in political polarization. He said peace is only possible if “in every single community, there does not prevail that culture of oppression and aggression in which our neighbor is regarded as an enemy to attack, rather than a brother or sister to welcome and embrace.”

The Holy Father’s address to the diplomatic corps, which includes representatives of the 91 countries and entities with an embassy chancellery accredited to the Holy See, also served as an opportunity to review diplomatic highlights of the past year and expectations for the year to come.

Milestones included the signing of new bilateral accords with both the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe and with the Republic of Kazakhstan. The Holy Father also briefly mentioned the provisional agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China, first agreed to in 2018 and renewed in 2022 for an additional two years.

“It is my hope that this collaborative relationship can increase, for the benefit of the life of the Catholic Church and that of the Chinese people.”

The next significant marker on the pope’s diplomatic docket: His trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo at the end of the month as a “pilgrim of peace,” followed by a joint visit to South Sudan with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the head of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland.