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War in Ukraine: Pope Francis sends an experienced mediator to kyiv

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi traveled this Monday to kyiv sent by Pope Francis, within the framework of the mediation attempts that the Argentine pontiff seeks to carry out.

Although Zuppi does not plan to make statements about his mission, he did condemn from kyiv that the war has affected Ukrainian children.

“It is unacceptable that the violence of this war has affected children. Pope Francis, speaking of Ukraine, used a very beautiful expression: Your tears are my tears, your pain is my pain. And today I say that their children are our children,” Zuppi said in a meeting with Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Dmytro Lubinets.

“I can talk about this because many children came to Italy and it was very nice to see the hospitality with which the Italians received the Ukrainian children,” he added.

An expert mediator

Cardinal Zuppi, during an interview with Clarín. Photo: Cézaro de Luca

The choice of Zuppi, considered by many as the future pope, to travel to kyiv is not causal. This cardinal has already mediated in the resolution of the conflicts in Mozambique, Burundi or Guatemala. Both he and Bergoglio are aware that only with dialogue the conflict in Ukraine will end.

Zuppi’s visit, as the Pope’s envoy to Ukraine, takes place “in the context of maintaining a constant diplomatic dialogue with the Holy See,” the spokesman for the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry told ANSA.

“We see it as another opportunity for the Vatican to see closely the reality of Russia’s war of aggression,” indicated in kyiv. They added that the government of Volodymyr Zelensky “expects efforts from the Vatican to help us bring home the Ukrainian children who have been illegally and forcibly taken to Russia.”

The visit of Zuppi, Archbishop of Bologna and President of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI), is “an initiative whose main objective is to listen in depth to the Ukrainian authorities on the possible ways to achieve a just peace and support gestures of humanity that contribute to alleviate tensions,” the Holy See reported in a press release.

Quickly, the Kremlin succinctly warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin has not yet scheduled a meeting with the cardinal Zuppi.

The news of the commission given to Cardinal Zuppi was released by the Vatican Press Office on May 20. Earlier, the Pope himself had spoken of a peace “mission” for the troubled Eastern European country.

For kyiv, Zuppi's visit will serve to see Moscow's aggression up close.  Photo: Reuters

For kyiv, Zuppi’s visit will serve to see Moscow’s aggression up close. Photo: Reuters

It was then Cardinal Pietro ParolinSecretary of State, questioned later outside of some acts, who explained that it is not a mission that has “mediation as an immediate objective”, but that it has the objective of “dealing above all with favor the climate, to favor an environment that can lead to paths of peace”.

The “interlocutors will be Moscow and kyiv for the moment, then we’ll see”, said Parolin, noting however that in this dialogue “We don’t want to exclude anyone.”

The thanks for the initiative of the Holy See came this Monday from the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy, Antonio Tajani.

“We are in favor of all peace initiatives -said the chancellor- we appreciate the effort that the Holy See is making to help put an end to the war”.

Zuppi: “Every war ends with a negotiation”

“Every war ends with a negotiation,” said the Archbishop of Bologna in a recent interview, who is known for being “a street priest” devoted to the poorest and migrants, despite having been named cardinal.

These characteristics, but above all his mediation work in the peace agreements in Mozambique in 1992, in Guatemala in the mid-1990s and for his collaboration with Nelson Mandela for the ceasefire in Burundi in 2003, have led the pontiff to trust him, perhaps, the most delicate mission of the entire pontificate.

According to the Pope’s intentionZuppi will be the only interlocutor with the Russian, Vladimir Putin, and Ukrainian, Volodimir Zelensky, presidents, although a date for the trip to Moscow has not yet been announced.

“You have to keep all channels open, to stop the massacre, there is no other way,” he explained to Corriere della Sera before learning that the pope would choose him in his delicate and almost impossible peace missionespecially when it seems that neither Ukraine nor Russia intends to talk.

Born in Rome on October 11, 1955, Zuppi was ordained a priest for the diocese of Palestrina in 1981 and from 2000 to 2012 he was the general ecclesiastical assistant of the Community of the lay faithful of Sant’Egidio after meeting its founder, Andrea Riccardi.

In 2012 he was appointed auxiliary bishop of Rome by Benedict XVI, while Francis named him archbishop of Bologna in 2015 and, four years later, cardinal.

In the Community of Sant’Egidio, known as the UN of Trasteverethe Roman neighborhood where they are based, is completely silent because it will surely be them, with a long history in mediation work, who will help Zuppi in his mission.

The Community itself is involved in an intensive humanitarian effort in Ukraine, with more than a thousand tons of aid, four distribution centers and a dense network of relationships also with the Moscow Patriarchate.

Zuppi will not make statements

The moment is delicate and the Italian Episcopal Conference has indicated that “the cardinal will not issue statementss until he considers it opportune, in agreement with the Pope and the Holy See”, when recalling that in 2003 Karol Wojtyla sent two cardinals to Baghdad and Washington in a futile attempt to stop the second Gulf War.

The Italian Episcopal Conference has indicated that "Cardinal Zuppi will not issue statements".  Photo: Cézaro De Luca

The Italian Episcopal Conference has indicated that “Cardinal Zuppi will not issue statements.” Photo: Cézaro De Luca

Zuppi knows that negotiations are long and patience is needed, as in Guatemala, where the peace agreement was reached in 1996 under the protection of the UN, but the role of the Community of Sant’Egidio was decisive, as the archbishop himself indicated.

secret meetings

“The talks had lasted several years but no trust or understanding had been established between one party and the other. This was possible precisely because these secret meetings organized by the Community without replacing the exercise of the United Nations. We chose to do this and then continue to accompany the process that the UN was presiding over at the time and that led to the signing of the peace agreement in Guatemala,” he explained at the time.

Zuppi also participated together with the Irish Methodist Harold Good, who witnessed the disarmament of the IRA, in the act that was held at the Bayonne City Hall on April 8, 2017 where the documents with the locations of the ETA arms depots were delivered. to the members of the International Verification Commission (CIV).

The Archbishop of Bologna had tried with Sant’Egidio a mediation between ETA and the Spanish Government, which, however, failed because the terrorist group was never trusted.

Zuppi’s presence “was intended to be that of a moral witness, known for having participated in various processes of international reconciliation, and is connected to the peace work of the Community of Sant’Egidio, which contributed to overcoming this painful page of history Spanish”, explained the Catholic movement in the face of the discomfort of a part of the Basque Church.

In 1990, Riccardi, the founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio, and Zuppi played the role of mediators in the negotiations between the Mozambique government, then controlled by the Socialists of the Liberation Front, and the National Resistance party, which had been at odds since 1975 in a bloody civil war.

The mediation led on October 4, 1992, the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi and after twenty-seven months of negotiations, to the signing of the peace accords in Rome that put an end to the hostilities.



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