19 June 2024, The Tablet

Pope Francis promotes peace efforts on G7 sidelines

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he and the Pope discussed “the role of the Holy See in establishing a just and lasting peace”.

Pope Francis promotes peace efforts on G7 sidelines

Pope Francis addresses attendees at the G7 meeting in Italy.
Vatican Media / CNA

Pope Francis discussed peace efforts in Ukraine and Gaza in a series of personal meetings with world leaders during the G7 summit.

He attended last week’s meeting in Borgo Egnazia, near Bari in southern Italy, on the invitation of Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, becoming the first pope to address the G7.

The Pope said politicians “urgently” need to develop a moral and ethical framework to regulate the use of artificial intelligence, specifically warning against the development of autonomous weapons and calling for a ban on their use.

“No machine should ever choose to take the life of a human being,” he said.

Before and after his address the Pope had a series of private meetings with attendees, including the US President Joe Biden, the French President Emmanuel Macron and Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

A statement from the White House said that President Biden had “thanked Pope Francis for the Vatican’s work to address the humanitarian impacts of Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, including his efforts to help return kidnapped Ukrainian children to their families”.

Pope Francis also met the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who said he thanked him for the Vatican’s participation in the Global Peace Summit for Ukraine on 15-16 June and discussed “the role of the Holy See in establishing a just and lasting peace”.

In a meeting in Ukraine earlier last week with the ambassadors of G7 states, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, said that “religious freedom will come to an end” in Russian-occupied territory, where “religion is not just instrumentalised but used as a weapon to destroy any connection with Ukrainian [identity]”.

He told them that legislation going before the Ukrainian parliament to restrict the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is historically linked to Moscow, was not a threat to religious freedom but would limit “the ability of Russia to influence and manipulate the religious environment”.

The Pope also discussed the war in the Holy Land during their meeting at the G7, emphasising “the urgent need for an immediate ceasefire and a hostage deal to get the hostages home and address the critical humanitarian crisis in Gaza”, according to the White House statement.

Francis met other regional leaders, including King Abdullah of Jordan, President Abdelmadjod Tebboune of Algeria and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who have been involved in humanitarian provision and ceasefire negotiations.

He also met India’s recently re-elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who wrote on social media that he admired the Pope’s “commitment to serve people and make our planet better” and had invited him to visit India. 

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) issued a statement in response, saying it was “delighted” by the invitation “reflecting a spirit of dialogue and mutual respect”

“The CBCI remains committed to fostering harmonious relations and constructive dialogue between the political leadership and religious communities in India. We hope this historic meeting will inspire further efforts towards peace, unity, and the common good,” the statement said.

Last year Modi told the CBCI president Archbishop Andrews Thazhath that he would repeat the invitation he made to the Pope when they met in Rome during a G20 summit. The last papal visit to India was John Paul II’s in 1999.

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