Papal peace envoy arrives in Kyiv


Eastern Europe


While the Vatican diplomatically uses the term ‘just peace’ to get a foot in the door in Kyiv, Pope Francis uses a different language. Photo AFP, Daniel Leal

The papal peace envoy has arrived in Kyiv. But whether actual peace talks are possible remains to be seen.

“The main purpose is to listen in depth to the Ukrainian authorities about possible ways to achieve a just peace,” a Vatican spokesman said on the two-day visit. During this visit, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi is expected to meet with the Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dmytro Kulebas, the Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, and possibly President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The Pope appointed Zuppi to head a Vatican peace mission at the end of May. Their goal is to reduce tensions between Kyiv and Moscow and to show ways to peace. Since the beginning of the war in February last year, the Vatican has repeatedly offered to mediate.

Just peace

The term “just peace” in the Vatican declaration is a striking signal to Volodymyr Zelensky, writes the Dutch Christian daily Nederlands Dagblad. The Ukrainian president uses the phrase to indicate that complete withdrawal of Russian troops is a Ukrainian precondition for any negotiation table. On Thursday, Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, said that peace negotiations “are not an option at the moment” because Zelensky “is not in a position to settle matters at the negotiating table”.

Zuppi. Photo AFP, Andreas Solaro

Unlike Ukraine, he said, Russia ‘does not set preconditions’. However, according to Peskov, Russia does have to ‘protect its own security and therefore Ukraine’s access to NATO is excluded’, which sounds strongly like an ex-ante condition.

But while the Vatican diplomatically uses the term ‘just peace’ to get a foot in the door in Kyiv, Pope Francis uses a different language. A guest on Italian television on Sunday, he hinted that peace is better than war in all cases, even if you have to pay the price for it.


The 67-year-old Matteo Zuppi is the archbishop of Bologna and president of the Italian bishops’ Conference. He has strong ties to the influential peace-building community Sant’Egidio, writes the Catholic News Agency. This community is a Catholic lay association that has been involved in peace negotiations in many countries, including Mozambique, South Sudan, Congo, Burundi, and the Central African Republic.

Since it became known that Zuppi was to lead a papal peace envoy to Kyiv, the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, clarified that Zuppi’s mission does not have mediation as its immediate goal. “Kyiv would not be prepared at present for mediation in the strict sense of the term,” Parolin told journalists. “However, this mission is not for the immediate purpose of mediation but rather to create this climate and help move toward a peaceful solution.” According to the Nederlands Dagblad, there are rumours that after visiting Kyiv, Zuppi will travel to Washington and Beijing.



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