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ROME – According to the Vatican’s top diplomat, Russia has “taken note” of the Holy See’s willingness to mediate between the Kremlin and Ukraine to put an end to the war, but has made no sign of wanting to take up the offer.
The Holy See is “ready” to help mediate, Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, said Sunday evening. “Obviously this availability must meet the desire of the parties to make use of this help.”
“The Russian side has taken note,” Parolin said, “but so far there have been no signs that they intend to make use of this availability.”
On Sunday, March 5, Pope Francis publicly acknowledged at the end of his weekly Angelus prayer that the Holy See is willing and ready to do whatever it can to end what he has described as the “massacre” in Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-force invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, and there have been a series of negotiations held between officials of both countries, but thus far, they have accomplished little. One of the agreements was the setting up of humanitarian corridors so people could safely flee Ukraine, but several reports show the Russians did not uphold their commitment to observe a ceasefire.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has already said that he would welcome a mediation by the Holy See, as has his ambassador to the Vatican.
Parolin told Italian television network Tgcom24 that for the Vatican Secretary of State “it is not important that the offer of the Holy See is accepted,” or if any of the other several offers that have been made are chosen. What truly matters, he said, is that the war comes to an end.
“Thank God there are so many initiatives,” Parolin said. “It seems to me that there is a great openness of the population. The pope said this morning: ‘I join with the common people to ask for an end to the war.’ It is important because I have seen in these days that there is so much attention, so much solidarity from everyone, from ordinary people, who are clamoring for this war to end.”
“It is really a choral request of which the pope makes himself an expression, but which starts at a grassroots level in every country,” the cardinal said. “And even in Russia itself. From what I have seen, there are many movements that are asking for peace, and I believe this is a sign of hope in this situation that does not offer much hope.”
If both sides were to accept the mediation by the Holy See, this would not be the first time the Vatican’s diplomatic service helped in such an endeavor. In fact, Pope Francis, as an Argentinian, has firsthand experience of the role the church can play in brokering peace. In Dec. 1978, on the day Argentina’s military government ordered the invasion of a series of islands awarded to Chile by the Beagle Channel Arbitration, Pope John Paul II made personal phone calls to the leaders of both governments and informed them he was sending a mediator, Cardinal Antonio Samoré to Buenos Aires.
Argentina and Chile both accepted the mediation, and the war was averted.
Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma