Is there any role for the Pope in helping to end the war in Ukraine?
The horror of the war in Ukraine continues to grip the world. Cities are being shelled, children are being killed and more than two million people have already been forced to flee their homes. The threat of a full-blown nuclear conflict looms perilously close. While there is intense anguish, grief and fury, global statesmanship is in short supply. A ceasefire looks increasingly remote.
Amid the darkness, Pope Francis may offer a glimmer of hope. Last Sunday, speaking to the crowds in St Peter’s Square, he said the Holy See is “ready to do everything” to bring about peace. The Pope’s offer is being taken seriously. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin and Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, spoke by phone.
The Vatican has long experience in mediating conflicts. Francis has helped to normalise relations between the United States and Cuba, smoothed the path to elections in the Central African Republic and brought together the warring leaders of South Sudan. Much of this work happens behind the scenes. On Ash Wednesday – the day the Pope had asked Christians to offer their fasting and prayer for peace in Ukraine – I sat down with Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, the papal ambassador to Britain, to find out how the Holy See is working to try to broker peace in Ukraine. How, I asked him, could Pope Francis make a difference?