Ukraine’s Zelenskiy expected to meet pope on Saturday —sources

May 12, 2023 - 10:32 AM
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Pope Francis waves as he leads Regina Caeli prayer from his window at the Vatican, May 7, 2023. (Vatican Media/­Handout via Reuters)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is expected to meet Pope Francis in the Vatican on Saturday, diplomatic sources said on Thursday, days after the pope said the Holy See was involved in a peace mission to try to end the war between Russia and Ukraine.

The planned trip has not been officially announced. Pope Francis has given no further information about the peace initiative.

There was no immediate comment from the Kyiv government on reports of the possible trip. Zelenskiy’s office never releases details of his travel plans ahead of time for security reasons.

An Italian political source confirmed that Zelenskiy might be in Rome at the weekend and said if that was the case, he would also see Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who is a staunch defender of Ukraine, which Russia invaded in February 2022.

News of the planned visit was first reported by Italy’s Ansa news agency. It said Zelenskiy was also expected to travel to Germany this weekend.

Since the invasion, the pope has pleaded for peace practically on a weekly basis, and has repeatedly expressed a wish to act as a broker between Kyiv and Moscow. His offer has so far failed to produce any breakthrough.

Ukraine Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal met the pope last month and said he had discussed a “peace formula” put forward by Zelenskiy. He said he had also invited the pontiff to visit Kyiv.

Pope Francis, 86, has said previously that he wants to visit both Kyiv and Moscow on a peace mission.

Tens of thousands have been killed, millions uprooted and whole cities have been flattened during the war in Ukraine.

—Reporting by Philip Pullella, additional reporting by Angelo Amante in Rome and Tom Balmforth in Kyiv; Writing by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Grant McCool