Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Pope's peace envoy, Cardinal Zuppi, meets President Biden concerning Ukraine


File photo: Cardinal Matteo Zuppi with a portrait of Pope FrancisFile photo: Cardinal Matteo Zuppi with a portrait of Pope Francis 

Cardinal Zuppi meets with US President Biden about suffering in Ukraine

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, the Pope’s special envoy to seek peace in Ukraine, meets with US President Joe Biden to discuss the Vatican’s work to return Ukrainian children who have been brought to Russia.

By Salvatore Cernuzio & Devin Watkins

As part of his peace mission for Ukraine as Pope Francis’ special envoy, Cardinal Matteo Maria Zuppi has held talks with US President Joe Biden at the White House.

The meeting took place at 5 PM (GMT-4) on Tuesday, and lasted approximately two and a half hours.

Appreciation for Holy See’s humanitarian efforts

A statement released by the White House said that President Biden “shared his wishes for Pope Francis’s continued ministry and global leadership and welcomed the recent nomination of a US archbishop as Cardinal.”

The president and the Cardinal also spoke about “the Holy See’s efforts providing humanitarian aid to address the widespread suffering caused by Russia’s continuing aggression in Ukraine.”

They went on to discuss the Vatican’s “advocacy” for the return of the estimated 19,000 Ukrainian children who have been brought to Russia since the renewed invasion on 24 February 2022.

Advocacy on behalf of children

Ukraine’s government says the true number of Ukrainian children in Russia could be much higher.

Cardinal Zuppi, the Archbishop of Bologna and President of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, had already brought up the topic during his previous missions to Kyiv (5-6 June) and Moscow (28-30 June).

In Russia, the Italian-born Cardinal spoke about it with Yuri Ushakov, Vladimir Putin's foreign policy adviser, and Maria Lvova-Belova, Children's Rights Commissioner for the President of the Russian Federation.

The Commissioner’s website confirmed that the topic was discussed, and published a photo of the Cardinal’s visit explaining that they had spoken about humanitarian issues related to the “military operation” and the protection of children’s rights.

‘Promote peace in Ukraine’

Cardinal Zuppi traveled to Washington on 17 July, along with an Official from the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, and his visit is due to conclude on Wednesday.

Ahead of his meeting with President Biden, the Cardinal met on Capitol Hill with several members of the US Congress.

The Holy See Press Office had announced on Monday that Cardinal Zuppi would visit Washington to “promote peace in Ukraine”.

His mission, according to a press statement, “seeks to facilitate the exchange of ideas and opinions regarding the current tragic situation, as well as to provide support for humanitarian initiatives aimed at alleviating the suffering of the most vulnerable people, particularly children.”

Nuncio’s comment on Zuppi’s mission

Speaking on Tuesday to several Italian media outlets, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States said Cardinal Zuppi’s mission is to “open a dialogue: to listen and be listened to.”

Cardinal-elect Christophe Pierre said Pope Francis hopes to “contribute to peace, and more specifically to find inroads on humanitarian grounds, particularly with regard to children.”

“The idea is to consider peace, amid the complicated context,” he said. “The Cardinal is very realistic, and we try to do what we can.”

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