Pope Francis visited the Russian Embassy to the Holy See on the morning of February 25, 2022, the Press Office of the Holy See confirmed to I.MEDIA.
He wanted to “show his distress about the war.”
A little over 24 hours after the start of the Russian offensive in Ukraine, Pope Francis traveled a few hundred meters from the Vatican, along via della Conciliazione – the main avenue that leads to St. Peter’s Square – to talk with the Russian ambassador to the Holy See.
Since 2013, the Russian Ambassador to the Holy See has been Aleksandr Avdeyev.
The meeting with the diplomat, a former Russian deputy foreign minister, lasted a little over half an hour. It is not known at this stage if Pope Francis has also planned to visit the Ukrainian embassy to the Holy See.
Pope Francis’ visit is a testament to the Argentine Pontiff’s determination to restore peace in Eastern Europe. Usually, it is the ambassadors accredited to the Holy See who go to the Vatican.
This trip is all the more symbolic as the Holy See Press Office announced the same day that Pope Francis cannnot travel to Florence on Sunday due to his severe knee pain.
Pleas again and again
Since the beginning of the year, the head of the Catholic Church has made numerous calls for a peaceful solution to the tensions in this region of the world.
On January 26, the Bishop of Rome led a Day of Prayer for Peace in Ukraine. “Weapons are not the way,” he warned.
On February 9, he said: “Let us continue to implore the God of peace that tensions and threats of war be overcome through serious dialogue, and that the “Normandy Format” talks may also contribute to this. Let us not forget: war is madness!“
On February 13, he said, “I entrust every effort for peace to the intercession of the Virgin Mary and to the conscience of the political leaders. Let us pray in silence.”
He has designated Ash Wednesday to be a day of fasting for the intention.
Diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Soviet Union were established in 1990, shortly before the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Last week, Avdeyev said that a meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill could come as early as this summer.
Pope Francis and the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church have had one in-person meeting, in Cuba in 2016.
On Thursday, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Pope’s secretary of state, released a message in various languages, calling for peace and urging the faithful not to lose hope. The message can be viewed here.
The cardinal echoed the Holy Father’s call to make Ash Wednesday, this coming March 2, a day of fasting and prayer for the intention of peace in Ukraine.
As well, some 60 Catholic bishops gathered in Florence, including the leaders of the Bishops of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), suspended on Thursday the afternoon discussions scheduled for the summit on the Mediterranean, and took to Eucharistic Adoration to pray for peace.
[This article has been updated since publication]