Papal envoy undertakes peace mission to Ukraine with ‘vague’ agenda

vague agenda

Italian Cardinal Matteo Zuppi’s recent two-day visit to Ukraine, described as a Vatican peace mission, has drawn criticism due to its vague agenda.

“The main purpose of this initiative is to listen in depth to the Ukrainian authorities about possible ways to achieve a just peace and to support gestures of humanity that will help ease tensions,” a Vatican press statement said of the 67-year-old cardinal’s visit before Zuppi departed.

Cardinal Zuppi (pictured), is president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference and often mentioned as a potential future pope, was likely chosen for this mission due to his active role in mediating the end of a civil war in Mozambique during the 1980s.

However, the details of Cardinal Zuppi’s agenda were not disclosed, and the outlines of the task the pope has entrusted to him remained particularly vague.

This peace mission comes less than a month after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to Rome, where he met with the pope. Following the meeting, Ukrainian officials dismissed the possibility of Vatican mediation in resolving the conflict with Russia.

President Zelensky declared, “We don’t need a mediator between Ukraine and the aggressor.”

Tensions within the Vatican

In response, Vatican officials have said that Cardinal Zuppi’s mission is aimed at something different.

“This mission does not have the immediate objective of mediation, but rather of creating this climate and helping to move towards a peaceful solution,” declared Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the pope’s Secretary of State, on May 26.

The statements made by Cardinal Pietro Parolin on May 26 exemplify the internal tensions within the Vatican regarding the merits of Cardinal Zuppi’s undertaking. Some within the Secretariat of State view the mission as bypassing the ongoing diplomatic efforts of the Holy See.

While Cardinal Zuppi’s visit is currently limited to Kyiv, members of the papal entourage have indicated that this mission aims to tour three other capitals: Washington, Beijing and, most crucially, Moscow.

A trip to Moscow appears plausible, but the same cannot be said for China, as the Holy See lacks diplomatic relations with Beijing, maintaining only strict pastoral ties through an agreement on the appointment of bishops.

Foreign diplomats in Rome have expressed scepticism regarding Cardinal Zuppi’s potential to achieve a breakthrough in the Ukraine-Russia war. One ambassador candidly remarked, “It’s a suicide mission, isn’t it?”

Another diplomat noted, “No one has ever succeeded in doing this. Ukraine is not Mozambique.”



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