04 May 2023, The Tablet

Parolin: Russia and Ukraine know of Vatican peace mission

Cardinal Pietro Parolin expressed surprise at claims from Moscow and Kyiv that they were unaware of the Holy See's efforts.

Parolin: Russia and Ukraine know of Vatican peace mission

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state, speaking at the UN in 2019.
2019 Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty Article XIV Conference

The Vatican has insisted that Russia and Ukraine know of its efforts to negotiate a ceasefire, after the warring parties denied any knowledge of a peace mission.

Both Kyiv and Moscow said that they had neither heard of nor endorsed the scheme mentioned by Pope Francis during an in-flight press conference on Sunday, when he said there was “a mission in course now but it is not yet public”.

A member of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s office said that the Ukrainian government was not party to any such scheme.

“If talks are happening, they are without our knowledge or our blessing,” the official told CNN.

Dmitry Peskov, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, said that the Kremlin was unaware of a Vatican mission.

On Wednesday, the Holy See’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, expressed surprise at their reaction.

Speaking after a book launch in Rome, he said that “to my knowledge, they were and are aware”, but observed that “amid the maze of bureaucracy it may be that communications did not get where they are supposed to”.

“As far as I know, they know,” he told reporters, adding: “I know that both parties have been informed.”

However, he denied that a meeting between the Pope and the Russian Orthodox Church’s “foreign minister” was related to this mission.

Pope Francis exchanged greetings with Metropolitan Anthony Volokolamsk, who heads the Moscow patriarchate’s department for external relations, at his general audience on Wednesday.

During his visit to Hungary last week, Francis met Metropolitan Anthony’s predecessor, Metropolitan Hilarion.  Their meeting was not part of the official schedule. Hilarion has since denied that they discussed any peace mission.

Cardinal Parolin said that Wednesday’s meeting “falls within the normal communications that there are” with diplomats.

Francis discussed Kyiv’s terms for a ceasefire during a meeting with the Ukrainian prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, when he visited the Vatican last week. 

These are understood to include the complete withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukrainian territory and a tribunal for Russian war crimes – conditions rejected by the Kremlin. Recent fighting, including a drone attack on Moscow and mutual accusations of terrorism, has further degraded the grounds for negotiation.

Cardinal Parolin said he did not know “what motivation or reasoning” lay behind the denials of the Vatican efforts, but declined to mention further details of the mission.

Speaking in Luxembourg last week, the Holy See’s secretary for relations with states, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, acknowledged the lack of progress in the Vatican’s attempts at mediation but said they would continue.

“Even if there seem to be no openings for negotiations at the moment, we must never lose hope, believing that this war will end, even if it may not be the ending imagined by President Zelensky or President Putin,” he said.

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