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After Ukraine trip, now peacemaker cardinal headed to Moscow

Cardinal Matteo Maria Zuppi

ANDREAS SOLARO | AFP

I.Media - published on 06/27/23

Italian Cardinal Matteo Zuppi will visit Moscow from June 28 to 29 as Pope Francis' envoy, after going to Kyiv at the beginning of the month.

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, archbishop of Bologna and president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, will visit Moscow as Pope Francis’ envoy on June 28 and 29, the Holy See Press Office announced on June 27, 2023. This new mission comes three weeks after he took a trip to Kyiv from June 5 to 6. 

“The main purpose of the initiative is to encourage gestures of humanity, which can help foster a solution to the current tragic situation and find ways to achieve a just peace,” the Holy See Press Office explains in a statement, without giving any details of the Cardinal’s activities during the two days. 

Cardinal Zuppi, who is also a member of the Catholic lay Community of Sant’Egidio, will be accompanied on this mission by an official from the Secretariat of State.

According to the French dailyLa Croix, the Italian prelate could meet the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill. The newspaper also envisions a possible meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov.

Cardinal Parolin had said a meeting between Zuppi and Kirill could happen

Speaking on the sidelines of a meeting at the Chancellery Palace in Rome on June 10, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, had told journalists – including I.MEDIA – that he saw “no difficulties” in a possible meeting between Cardinal Zuppi and the Russian patriarch.

“According to the information I have, it could be arranged,” said the head of Vatican diplomacy. 

Cardinal Parolin also spoke about Cardinal Zuppi’s first mission in Ukraine from June 5 to 6. He said the aim was to “listen in depth to the Ukrainian authorities on possible ways of achieving lasting peace, and to support gestures of humanity that contribute to easing tensions.”

“It went well,” the Secretary of State said. He also welcomed the meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky, which “was not a given.” 

Zuppi’s trip to Ukraine

During this exchange in the Ukrainian capital, the authorities in Kyiv had asked the Holy See for cooperation “within the framework of the Ukrainian peace plan.” It demands, in addition to the withdrawal of Russian troops, reparations and legal proceedings against Russian warlords. “The Holy See could get involved, it remains to be seen how,” Cardinal Parolin told the press. He added that “humanitarian issues” could be “the specific area on which we could work.”  

Despite the Pope’s numerous calls for an end to the war over the past year, Cardinal Zuppi’s dual “mission” is not officially presented by the Holy See as a mediation for peace – an option rejected by both Kyiv and Moscow.

Recently, the Holy See’s exchanges with both parties have multiplied. Pope Francis received President Zelensky at the Vatican on May 13, and Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of External Ecclesiastical Relations, on June 16. 

In fact, the cardinal has a long history of helping to bring about peace in certain serious world conflicts.

While still just a priest, Cardinal Zuppi acted as a mediator in several conflicts. He mediated in 1992 in Mozambique, which at that time was being torn apart by civil war. He subsequently mediated on behalf of Sant’Egidio in Tanzania, Cuba, Kosovo, and Basque Country in 2017, when members of ETA decided to make him their ‘moral witness’ when they laid down their arms. 

The Sant’Egidio community has taken on significant importance under Francis’ pontificate, sometimes being described as a diplomatic agency parallel to that of the Secretariat of State.

Tags:
Pope FrancisRussiaUkraine
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