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Pope Francis considers trip to Kyiv

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© Vatican Media

I.Media - published on 04/02/22

On the plane from Rome to Malta on April 2, 2022, the Pope spoke to reporters about the possibility of visiting Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine.

On the plane from Rome to Malta on April 2, 2022, the Pope spoke to reporters about the possibility of visiting Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. Asked if he was considering the invitation to go there, the 85-year-old pontiff replied: “Yes, it’s on the table.”

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko officially invited Pope Francis to visit his beleaguered city on March 8. The invitation was forwarded to the Holy See’s Secretariat of State by the Apostolic Nuncio to Ukraine, Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas. But in a recent interview with the Italian magazine Famiglia Cristiana, the diplomat explained why such a trip seems impossible at this time.

“It would be beautiful and of great significance to have the pontiff among us, but I have thought long and hard with the bishops and, unfortunately, it is not at all easy to organize a visit in this situation,” said Bishop Visvaldas Kulbokas.

He explained: “It is one thing to arrive in Kyiv with precautions and safe means, as some European leaders have done to have confidential meetings and try to advance the negotiations. It is another to imagine an almost secret and clandestine visit by the Pope. This is not possible. A minimum of truce would be indispensable both for the Pope and for the people who should participate in prayer with him. Without these minimal conditions, which are currently difficult to achieve, the safety of all would be jeopardized.”

The probability of a trip to Kyiv under the current conditions is therefore very low. On the flight to Malta, Pope Francis recalled that two cardinals from the Curia have traveled to Ukraine to show his support – Cardinal Krajewski, Apostolic Chaplain, and Cardinal Czerny, Prefect ad interim of the Dicastery for the service of integral human development.

A trip to Poland to help refugees?

It should be noted that the day before the Pope left for Malta, he received the President of the Republic of Poland at the Vatican, who invited him to visit his country. According to Andrzej Duda, this was a way for the Pope to meet the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees in Poland.

This trip “would be an opportunity to meet two nations, since nearly two million Ukrainian citizens are currently in Poland and live with us,” President Duda told the press after his 35-minute meeting with the head of the Catholic Church.

However, a diplomatic source contacted by I.MEDIA believes that such a trip could be badly perceived by the Russian authorities and the Russian Orthodox Church. The Holy See would break with its attitude of remaining a possible mediator for a dialogue between the Ukrainian and Russian parties.

“The Pope cannot visit one side of this conflict without visiting the other,” says this source. Vatican diplomacy always tries to respect this tenuous balance. Thus, at the time of the Falklands War in 1982, John Paul II visited both the United Kingdom (May 28 to June 2) and Argentina (June 11-12).

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Tags:
DiplomacyMaltaPope FrancisUkraine
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