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.
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.
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 met Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the Vatican on May 13, 2023, their first meeting since the start of the full-scale war with Russia. / Vatican Media.
Vatican City, May 13, 2023 / 09:52 am (CNA).
Pope Francis and the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, met at the Vatican on Saturday.
The May 13 encounter — their first since Russia initiated a full-scale war in Ukraine over 14 months ago — was around 40 minutes long.
The two met in a small office off of the Paul VI Hall, which is close to Pope Francis’ Vatican residence.
Pope Francis greeted Zelenskyy at the door of the building. The two shook hands and the Ukrainian president placed his hand on his heart and said, in English, “great honor.”
The Holy See Press Office said Francis and Zelenskyy spoke about the humanitarian and political situation in Ukraine amid the conflict.
“The pope assured of his constant prayers, evidenced by his many public appeals and continuous invocations to the Lord for peace since February last year,” the press office said. “The pope particularly stressed the urgent need for ‘gestures of humanity’ toward the most fragile people, the innocent victims of the conflict.”
Zelenskyy’s gifts to Francis were a painting of the Virgin Mary and Child titled “Loss 2022-58,” about the death of children in the conflict, and a collage made of bulletproof plate, wood, and paint from a series called “Protect the Defender.” The collage also features an image of the Virgin Mary.
The Ukrainian president spent in total about one hour at the Vatican.
He also spoke with the Vatican’s foreign minister, Archbishop Richard Gallagher. They conversed in English in the presence of Ukraine’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Andrii Yurash.
On Saturday morning, Zelenskyy met with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, and later, with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.
Meloni and Zelenskyy gave a nearly 30-minute joint press conference in the afternoon before the Ukrainian president proceeded to the Vatican for his meeting with Pope Francis.
“We are betting on Ukraine’s victory,” Meloni said at the press conference. “We will continue to provide support, including military support, so that Ukraine can arrive at the negotiations with a solid position.”
Zelenskyy thanked Meloni for welcoming him to Italy and for giving shelter to Ukrainian citizens during the war.
Meloni said Italy was Zelenskyy’s first stop in a tour of Europe this month.
The Ukrainian president is scheduled to appear live on one of Italy’s state television channels, Rai1, during a special edition of the program “Porta a Porta” on Saturday evening.
Rome Newsroom, Feb 26, 2022 / 12:10 pm (CNA).
Pope Francis on Saturday expressed his sorrow about the situation in Ukraine in a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.According to the Ukrainian Embassy to … […]