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Pope Francis Appoints Cardinal Matteo Zuppi To Head Vatican’s Peace Mission Between Russia and Ukraine

On Saturday afternoon, May 20, the Holy See published the name of the Cardinal who will head the peace mission promoted by Pope Francis on behalf of the Holy See.

“I can confirm that Pope Francis has entrusted to Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, Archbishop of Bologna and President of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI), the task to direct a mission, in accordance to the Secretariat of State, to help alleviate the tensions of the conflict in Ukraine, with the hope, never given up by the Holy Father, that paths of peace can thus be initiated,” said the spokesman of the Holy See Press Office. 

Also reported is that the “calendar of such a mission and its modalities are being studied at present.”

In this way, made more specific is the Holy Father’s comment during the press conference on the return flight from Budapest, on Sunday, April 30, when he said: “now there is a mission underway, but it’s not yet public. We’ll see how . . . When it’s public I’ll tell it.”

The Hoy Father’s initial announcement, however, was followed by the denial both from the Russian side as well as the Ukrainian, saying that they weren’t aware of the mission. Some days later not only did the Pope receive President Zelensky but Russia also moved its Ambassador to the Holy See. After Zelensky’s visit to the Pope in the Vatican, the Ukrainian President made clear what it seems was addressed in private with the Holy Father. “With due respect to His Holiness, we don’t need mediators, we need a just peace,” said Zelensky on one of the most watched programs in Italy — Porta a Porta. The Pontiff’s answer to Zelensky came on Saturday, May 20. 

As regards Cardinal Zuppi, not only is he a great Pastor, but also an experienced diplomat. In fact, his mediation efforts succeeded on October 4, 1992, when the Socialist Government in Mozambique (controlled by Mozambique’s Liberation Front), put an end to the existing civil war with a Peace Agreement signed in Rome. This earned Cardinal Zuppi the title of Honorary Citizen of Mozambique. The Peace Agreement was signed after 27 months of negotiations. 

In connection with Cardinal Zuppi’s appointment, the Secretary of the Italian Episcopate made a statement in which the Episcopate advanced that the Cardinal will not make statements about the mission. 

We receive as sign of great confidence and with best wishes Pope Francis’ decision to entrust to Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, Archbishop of Bologna and President of CEI, the task to direct a mission, in accordance with the Secretariat of State, to contribute to alleviate the tensions of the conflict in Ukraine and initiate paths of peace.

We invite the ecclesial communities and, in particular, the monasteries present in the national territory, to accompany henceforth with their prayers this mission that the Holy Father decided to entrust to the President of CEI, so that it will bear fruit and help to build processes of reconciliation. 

“Given the importance and delicacy of the task,” said the Director of the National Office of Social Communication, Vincenzo Corrado, “the Cardinal will not give interviews or make statements until it is considered opportune, in agreement with the Pope and the Holy See.”