To succeed where everyone else has failed by obtaining not a ceasefire but a total cessation of the bombardments and a real commitment on the part of Vladimir Putin to sign a lasting peace. Since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis, Pope Francis has decided to do everything possible to succeed in achieving this objective. Jose Mario Bergoglio is used to mediations because he is at the origin of the agreement signed in 2014 between the Americans and the Cubans whom he had gathered around the same table in the Vatican to talk about peace and exchanges diplomatic. Will it be the same this time around? The stakes are much higher and a success would therefore be even more significant for Pope Francis, especially on the political level. What he probably wants most, the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires being part of the line of politician popes like John Paul II and before him, Alexander VI and Julius II.
Negotiate all around
As in 2014, the pope has therefore begun to prepare the ground first with Italians who also wish to play a role in resolving the crisis. Thus, Francis first sent a first message to parliament via the Italian parties: “I am ready to do anything and use my influence and my prestige to intervene with Vladimir Putin and try to succeed where all have failed”. For Rome, which lacks a bit of visibility in current discussions, the pope’s intervention was rather well seen. The parliament therefore accepted the help of the sovereign pontiff and asked the government of Mario Draghi to help Francis.
At the same time, the pope also tested the waters with the Russians by visiting the Russian ambassador to the Holy See. It was February 25. That morning, “papa Francesco” as the Italians call him, asked his secretary to cancel all his appointments because he wanted to go and talk to Alexander Avdeev, whom he apparently considers a friend. An unusual gesture, the custom in the Vatican being that the meetings are organized by the Secretariat of State and that they are solicited by the representatives of a State and not by the pope. But for François, the gravity of the situation justifies the upheaval of the protocol.
According to the Italian press, the meeting between the two men would have lasted about forty minutes. During this interview, the sovereign pontiff would have expressed his concerns to his interlocutor, in particular with regard to the fate of civilians and even more particularly of children. Francis would also have taken advantage of the discussion to slip a few words to the ambassador on a possible intervention by the Holy See as a mediator to try to find a solution. According to rumors, François would also have mentioned a future without nuclear power, but on this point, the ambassador would have slipped away. For the moment, no one really knows what the ambassador replied to him, but the fact remains that after this first meeting, the pope has multiplied important gestures. He first sent sanitary equipment to Ukraine and organized with the Italian government the reception of the first refugees. He also posted several messages on social networks. First a first tweet in Russian to ask the two countries to reconcile, then a second still in Russian, a few days later. A first in the history of the papacy, the popes generally passing through television or the written press. But François is a man who moves with the times and above all, an excellent communicator who knows what works best and above all, the fastest.
Expected meeting with the Patriarch of Moscow
At the same time, associations close to the Vatican have begun to move. Last week, for example, the Community of Sant’Egidio organized a major demonstration in Rome in which some fifty Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Orthodox and Buddhist associations took part, as well as members of the humanitarian circuit such as the NGO Emergency. The pope also contacted His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of Kyiv and Galicia and head of the Greek-Orthodox Church of Ukraine, to thank him for opening the doors of Kyiv Cathedral to the people and allow them to escape the bombardments. Finally, Francis telephoned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi, to tell him of his great pain and his immense closeness.
What’s the next step ? As in 2014 for Cuba, the pope would be ready to welcome the Russian and Ukrainian delegations to the Vatican and to attend the negotiations as a peacemaker. The question is: will Patriarch Cyril of Moscow, head of the Russian Orthodox Church who supports Vladimir Putin stubbornly, easily accept Francis’ intervention? Nothing is less sure. But the ways of the Lord are inscrutable…
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