In the middle of Holy Week, Vatican diplomacy is intensely pulling its strings in its attempt to mediate in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. More than 50 days later, war and destruction continue to plague the Ukrainian territory, while negotiations to stop the attacks seem stalled. However, the Holy See is more active than ever, and so much in direct messages – Francis called for a ceasefire on Palm Sunday for the Christian Easter, and has sent his 'minister' of Solidarity, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, to presiding over the Easter events in the Ukraine – as in the offices, he works so that Vladimir Putin stops the Russian invasion.
One of the main allies of Vladimir Putin, a convinced Orthodox Christian, is Patriarch of Moscow Kirill. The head of the Russian Orthodox, the only religious leader who has not only not condemned the Russian invasion, but has clearly supported it, he is one of the few men capable of changing Putin's mind. And Francis knows it. As Vatican sources have confirmed, the latest move in Vatican diplomacy consists precisely in formalizing a meeting between the Pope of Rome and the Patriarch of Moscow. A meeting that, if all goes well, could take place next June in an emblematic place for all Christian denominations: Jerusalem. All this during a trip that could take Bergoglio to Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine, and which has not yet been officially confirmed by the Holy See.
If it happens, it would be the second time that the Russian Catholic and Orthodox leaders have met since Moscow and Rome broke off relations in 1054, excommunicating each other. The previous one, with the same protagonists, took place in 2016 in Havana. Since then, Kirill and Francis have opened a channel of constant communication, which before the invasion of Ukraine was about to materialize with a historic trip by the Pope to Moscow, now further than ever. However, in recent weeks, both leaders have held meetings by videoconference and, although the Vatican has clearly positioned itself against Putin's war, Rome has consciously avoided condemning the Russian president or breaking relations with the Orthodox Church.
On his recent trip to Malta, and when asked by journalists, Bergoglio denied that he was measuring his words when talking about Putin, pointing out that "the messages I have given to all the authorities are the ones I have given publicly. I don't like the double language. Despite this, he admitted that he had not spoken with the Russian president since Christmas, while he had contacted Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, on several occasions.
Already on February 25, a day after the invasion began, Bergoglio personally approached (and outside his official agenda) the Russian embassy to the Holy See. Bergoglio met that day for half an hour with Ambassador Alexander Avdeev, expressing his "concern", a meeting that began Francis' personal diplomatic management of this conflict.
The other great gesture that arises behind the Vatican walls is a visit of the Pope to kyiv, something that Francis himself has recognized as a possibility: "There is no no, I am available," he told reporters during a trip on the official plane. However, sources close to the Pontiff do not see it as feasible, not so much because of the risk of an attack, but because of the feeling that such a trip would be considered by Russia as a position taken by the Vatican, which would invalidate him as a possible mediator in the face of to a peace agreement. That, despite the resurgence of the attacks and the discovery of the horrors in Bucha and other Ukrainian cities, the Holy See continues to consider it feasible in the medium term.
The trip "is on the table. It is one of the proposals, but I don't know if it can be done and if it will be convenient. All this is up in the air," Bergoglio acknowledged. And he pointed out: "The entire diplomatic part of the Vatican is doing what is possible, and not all actions can be published out of prudence. But we are at the limit of what is possible."
In this sense, the possible meeting with Kirill in Jerusalem is a sign of hope. "If the Pope convinces Kirill, the patriarch can convince Putin. Perhaps he is the only one who can do it," sources familiar with the work to ensure that both leaders can meet in the Holy City confirm to elDiario.es.
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