February 22, 2024

The Pope’s peace envoy from Ukraine heads to Washington with the plight of children at the top of his agenda

ROME (AP) – Pope Francis’ peace envoy was traveling to Washington on Monday as part of the Holy See’s peace initiatives for Ukraine, hoping to support humanitarian operations especially regarding children, the Vatican said Monday.

The visit of Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, which lasts until Wednesday, continues his visit recent mission to Moscow and an earlier stop in Kyiv, where he met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Zuppi is a veteran of the Catholic Church’s peace initiatives and has been tasked by Francis to try to find “paths of peace” between the warring sides.

In Moscow, Zuppi met with Maria Lvova-Belova, the Russian commissioner for children’s rights, as well as Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, who strongly supported the war.

Francis accepted Ukraine’s request to intervene where possible to return Ukrainian children taken to Russia after Moscow’s invasion. The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Lvova-Belova and Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing them of abducting children from Ukraine. Russian officials have denied any forced adoptions, saying some Ukrainian children are in foster care.

Francis has said that he hopes the Holy See can facilitate family reunificationthe same way the Vatican stepped in to facilitate prisoner swaps.

In a statement on Monday, a Vatican spokesman said Zuppi would be traveling to Washington with an official from the Vatican’s secretariat of state. There were no details on who he would see in the US capital.

“The visit takes place in the context of the planned mission to promote peace in Ukraine and aims to exchange ideas and opinions on the current tragic situation and support initiatives in the humanitarian field to alleviate the suffering of the most affected people and mitigate vulnerable, in particular. children,” the statement said.

Francis has repeatedly called for an end to the war but refrained from criticizing Moscow externally, part of the Vatican’s tradition of maintaining diplomatic neutrality in conflicts in the hope that he can play a behind-the-scenes role in take in creating peace.

He angered the United States and its allies by repeating Moscow’s argument that NATO was “barking at its gates,” and apparently making a moral equivalence between Ukraine’s and Russia’s losses.

He has affirmed Ukraine’s right to self-defense but has been sharply critical of the arms industry, saying the supply of weapons to Ukraine from the west could be immoral “if it is done with the intention of inciting more war or selling or getting rid of weapons with old ones. .”

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