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Zelensky meets Pope Francis' envoy, urges Vatican to support Ukrainian peace formula

by Dinara Khalilova June 6, 2023 6:38 PM 3 min read
President Volodymyr Zelensky and a special representative of Pope Francis, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, shake hands during their meeting in Kyiv on June 6, 2023. (Ukraine's Presidential Office)
This audio is created with AI assistance

President Volodymyr Zelensky met with a special representative of Pope Francis, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, in Kyiv on June 6.

Zelensky called on the Holy See to support Ukraine's peace formula, adding that Russia continues committing war crimes in Ukraine, the latest of which was the destruction of the Kakhovka dam in Kherson Oblast.

"This crime carries enormous threats and will have dire consequences for people's lives and the environment," said Zelensky.

Russian forces destroyed the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant's dam on the Dnipro River on the morning of June 6, sparking a large-scale humanitarian and environmental disaster across southern Ukraine.

According to Ukraine's Presidential Office, Zelensky told Cardinal Zuppi that an immediate ceasefire and freezing of Russia's war will not lead to sustainable peace, reiterating that Kyiv sees its peace formula as the only effective plan.

"The enemy will take advantage of the pause for capacity building and further offensive, for a new wave of crimes and terror. Russia must withdraw all its troops from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders," he said.

Poll: Most Ukrainians dislike, ignore Pope Francis’ stance on war
The poll, published on the same day President Volodymyr Zelensky is meeting with Pope Francis, showed that most Ukrainians either disagree with the Pope’s stance on the war, or find it irrelevant, or don’t know about it.

Only joint efforts, diplomatic isolation, and pressure on Russia can influence Moscow and bring a just peace, according to Zelensky.

Ukraine's president believes the Holy See could help with the release of Ukrainian prisoners, the return of Russia-deported children, and the restoration of justice.

The Holy See Press Office reported on May 20 that Pope Francis had entrusted Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, the Archbishop of Bologna and President of the Italian Bishops' Conference, to lead a peace mission in Ukraine. The Vatican aims to leverage Cardinal Zuppi's diplomatic skills and vast network to contribute to de-escalating tensions and paving the way for a lasting resolution in Ukraine.

On May 13, Zelensky met with Pope Francis in the Vatican for the first time since 2020, asking the Pope to condemn Russia's war crimes.

Pope Francis has previously said that the Vatican is ready to mediate for Ukraine and Russia but has shown signals that he doesn't see the invasion as a one-sided war of aggression. He said in March he believes the war is driven by multiple "empires" besides just Russia and stated his readiness to talk to Putin.

Yet Pope Francis also said he's working on a secret mission to halt the war and return the children that Russia abducted from Ukraine.

PM Shmyhal meets Pope Francis in Vatican, invites him to Ukraine
Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal met Pope Francis in the Vatican on April 27, handing him a photo album about Russian war crimes in Ukraine.
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