Pope mediated by exchange of Ukrainian prisoners

30-09-2022

Southern Europe

Lennart Nijenhuis, CNE.news

Pope Francis (r.) and Ukrainian President Zelensky (l.). Photo

Pope Francis acted as a mediator to facilitate the exchange of prisoners between Ukraine and Russia. The Pontiff confirmed so in a Jesuit meeting.

The head of the Vatican revealed to 19 Jesuits that he talked to a military leader from Ukraine, who gave him a list of over 300 prisoners. That is reported by Avvenire. “A military leader who deals with the exchange of prisoners came with the religious counsellor of President Zelensky. They asked me to do something for the trade.” The Pope says that he immediately called the Russian ambassador to see if an exchange could happen as soon as possible.

Since the beginning of the conflict, the Pope has left space for dialogue with the Russians and the Ukrainians. He recalled during the meeting that he went straight to the Russian embassy as soon as he heard that the war had started. “I told the ambassador that I would have liked to speak with President Putin, as long as he left me a small dialogue window”, the Pope said.

At the same time, the Pope kept in touch with Ukrainian President Zelensky. He phoned him twice and sent cardinals to Kyiv to show solidarity. “The presence of the Holy See in Ukraine has the value of bringing help and support. It is a way to express a presence.”

“Reflection is necessary”

The Pope has both implicitly and more explicitly expressed that he sees the Russian invasion as “unacceptable, repugnant, senseless, barbaric and as sacrilegious aggression.” He acknowledges that Ukraine is the victim of the conflict.

Yet, he says that careful reflection on the conflict is also necessary. “There are international factors that have contributed to the war. A head of state told me in December last year that he was very worried because NATO had started to bark at the gates of Russia, without understanding that the Russians are imperial and fear the border insecurity.”

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