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Pope speaks of secret mission for peace in Ukraine

May 01, 2023

Pope Francis said that the Vatican is involved in a secret mission to bring peace to Ukraine, in an exchange with reporters during his flight home from a visit to Hungary.

“There is a mission underway now, but it is not yet public,” the Pope said. He declined to say more about the effort. “When it is public, will reveal it,” he said.

The Pope stressed that he is “available to do anything” for the cause of peace. He sidestepped questions about whether he had pursued his secret mission during his three-day visit to Hungary.

During the trip the Pope met with Metropolitan Hilarion, who was once the chief foreign-affairs official of the Russian Orthodox Church. However Hilarion was removed from that post after criticizing the Russian offensive in Ukraine, which the Moscow Patriarchate has supported. During his inflight interview he Pope appeared to indicate that he was not in close touch with the current leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church, saying that he had “spoken only once since the war began” with the Russian Patriarch Kirill. Speaking highly of Aleksandr Avdeyev, the Russian ambassador to the Holy See, the Pope said: “My relationship with the Russians is mainly with this ambassador.”

The Pontiff did speak more directly about an effort to return Ukrainian children who have been taken to Russia. He said that he supported a plea from the Ukrainian government for their return, and pointed out that “the Holy See has acted as an intermediary in some prisoner-exchange situations” in the past. “All human gestures help, but gestures of cruelty do not help,” he said. “We must do everything humanly possible.”


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