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Pope Francis talks to President Zelenskyy as war rages in Ukraine

The two spoke by phone to discuss peace and aid for refugees.

In this Feb. 8, 2020, file photo, Pope Francis exchanges gifts with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, during a private audience at the Vatican. Zelenskyy said during a videoconference with the Italian Parliament on March 22, 2022, that he had talked with Pope Francis earlier in the morning. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, Pool)

VATICAN CITY (RNS) — Pope Francis spoke over the telephone to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday (March 22), the second such call since the start of the war in Ukraine, this time addressing the need to help migrants fleeing the country.

Afterward, Zelenskyy tweeted about the phone call, writing that he “told His Holiness about the difficult humanitarian situation and the blocking of rescue corridors by Russian troops.” The Ukrainian president also thanked the pope for his prayers for Ukraine and his efforts for peace, after noting that the “mediating role of the Holy See in ending human suffering would be appreciated.”

The Vatican confirmed the conversation took place but did not share any additional information about the conversation, which was described as a personal phone call.

 

“Today I spoke with Pope Francis,” Zelenskyy said in a videoconference with the Italian Parliament. “He said very important things.”

The Ukrainian president described the phone discussion to Parliament, saying the pope acknowledged the Ukrainian people’s desire for peace, as well as their urge to defend their country. “I answered: ‘Our people became an army when it saw how much evil, how much devastation the enemy brought,’” Zelenskyy said, detailing the atrocities in Ukraine targeting civilians and beseeching Italy and Europe to intervene for peace.

The Ukrainian representative to the Holy See, Andrii Yurash, also tweeted on the “new visible gesture of support” by Pope Francis. He said the conversation lasted several minutes and said the pope initiated the call, which was “very promising.”

 

Yurash also wrote in his tweet that Zelenskyy invited the pope, who “is praying and doing everything possible for end of war,” to visit Ukraine. The mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, has also invited Francis to visit the war-torn capital, calling his presence “key to saving lives and paving the path to peace.”

This is the second time the pope has spoken to the Ukrainian president since the start of the war. On Feb. 27, the pope called Zelenskyy to voice his “most profound pain” for the “suffering caused by the conflict. ”

Two days before that first call, immediately after the Russian military entry into Ukraine, the pope visited the Russian ambassador to the Vatican to personally “express his concern about the war.” Francis also spoke to Orthodox Patriarch Kirill via videoconference on March 16.


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Pope Francis has been vocal in his support for the Ukrainian people, especially the poor and vulnerable who are suffering the most, but has avoided calling out Russia or Russian President Vladimir Putin directly.

“Unfortunately, the violent aggression against Ukraine does not stop, a senseless massacre where every day there is a repetition of slaughter and atrocities,” Francis said during his Sunday prayer service.

“There is no justification for this!” the pope continued, while stressing the importance that the international community “truly commit” to ending the war threatening Europe and the world. He urged parties involved to care for human lives before “any strategy.”

The previous day, Pope Francis visited victims of the war at the Vatican-run Pediatric Hospital Bambino Gesù in Rome. On Friday, the pope will consecrate for humanity, but especially Russia and Ukraine, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in an effort to bring faithful together to pray for peace.


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