Pope’s Ukraine peace envoy calls war a ‘pandemic’ affecting everyone
ROME — Pope Francis’ envoy for peace in Ukraine, a veteran of the Catholic Church’s conflict mediation efforts, called the war a ‘pandemic’ on Tuesday and said all Christians are called to be peacemakers .
In his first public comments since his appointment as special envoy for Ukraine, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi called for the creation of a culture of peace to respond to “the deep anxiety, sometimes unspoken, often unheard , peoples who need peace”.
The Vatican confirmed on Saturday that Francis had entrusted Zuppi with a mission “to help ease tensions in the conflict in Ukraine, in the unending hope of the Holy Father, that this may open avenues of peace.” No further details were released, with the Vatican saying they were still under consideration.
Zuppi, 67, is the archbishop of Bologna, president of the Italian bishops’ conference and a veteran of the Catholic Church’s peace mediation initiatives through his long-standing affiliation with the community of Sant’Egidio. Through the Rome-based charity, Zuppi helped mediate the 1990s peace accords ending civil wars in Guatemala and Mozambique and led the commission negotiating a ceasefire in Burundi. in 2000, according to Sant’Egidio.
A pastor in the style of Francis and considered “papabile” – having the qualities of a future pope – Zuppi was appointed last year to head the Italian bishops’ conference, and in this role opened the spring meeting of the conference on Tuesday with a wide-ranging talk about the Italian Church which also inhabited Ukraine.
Quoting Francis, Zuppi recalled the pontiff’s frequent and emotional expressions of solidarity with the “martyred” Ukrainian people, and appeared to respond to frequent criticism of the Vatican’s diplomatic tradition of neutrality and Francis’ reluctance to publicly challenge the Kremlin.
Zuppi suggested that Francis was by no means neutral in his plea for peace.
“We are grateful today for his prophecy, so rare today when talk of peace seems to avoid taking sides or not acknowledging responsibility,” he said.
Affirming that all Christians are called to do their part to bring peace, he said: “War is a pandemic. It concerns all of us. »
“The church and Christians believe in peace, we are all called to be peacemakers, even more so in the terrible storm of conflict,” he said.
Francis announced the existence of a peace mission as he returned home last month from Hungary, where he met an envoy from the Russian Orthodox Church, which has strongly supported the war. In the weeks that followed, Francis met in the Vatican with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who made it clear that he would not accept territorial concessions and rejected Francis’ reference to victims on both sides of the conflict, saying that there can be no equivalence between the victim and the aggressor. .