ROME – As Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine rages on, it’s become a staple of anti-Putin rhetoric to insist that the “whole world” is united in its outrage. U.S. President Joe Biden, for example, has said that the prayers “of the entire world” are with Ukraine, and vowed that “the world will hold Russia accountable.”

Yet a quick survey of the global situation is enough to demonstrate that it’s not really so. In fact, what’s new about this situation is more that the U.S. and Europe are unusually united, but important chunks of the rest of the world, at least so far, aren’t fully on board.

China, which represents one-sixth of the world all by itself, abstained from a March 2 vote of the UN General Assembly condemning Russia’s invasion, and while its public statements have been largely cautious, Chinese state-run media are using Putin’s rhetoric of a “special military operation,” recycling claims of U.S. biochemical labs in Ukraine, and reporting that the West provoked the conflict by ignoring Russia’s legitimate security concerns.

Although the UAE recently announced it would support increased oil production by OPEC in order to counter rising fuel prices due to anti-Putin sanctions, it did so only reluctantly, and Saudi Arabia and several other OPEC members still appear to be sticking to their alliance with Russia, known as OPEC+.

In Africa, it’s become common to hear leaders grumble that while the West appears to be in a full, upright and locked position on stopping the war in Russia, large-scale conflicts raging right now in Ethiopia and Cameroon elicit little more than pious statements of concern.

If we’re ever to arrive at a point where wars of aggression such as Ukraine are a thing of the past, it will really have to be the entire world that mobilizes swiftly to punish the aggressor, meaning that important global players such as China, the Gulf States and at least parts of Africa will have to be brought into the fold.

Happen to know anybody with cachet in precisely those three places?

This week, a well-known actress and fashion model who’s also a Ukrainian émigrée in Italy, Anna Safroncik, went on one of Italy’s most popular evening variety shows to appeal to Pope Francis to go immediately to Kyiv.

“Today, Kyiv is the capital of the free world, and it must be defended as a symbol of everything democracy has accomplished,” Safroncik said. “I think that if Pope Francis went to Kyiv, Putin would be forced to stop. By his presence alone, he could convince Putin to stop the bombs and open a real dialogue. Pope Francis, my city, which ordinarily in these months would be covered with white and red flowers, but which instead is being torn apart, is there, waiting for you.”

It may be slightly naïve to think that simply by showing up, Pope Francis could accomplish something that a combination of remarkably stiff resistance from Ukrainians and crippling international economic sanctions haven’t.

Nevertheless, Safroncik may be onto something, in the sense that Pope Francis arguably is the lone global leader right now with a real capacity to help make the wall of opposition to Putin truly global.

Francis and his Vatican team, for instance, recently signed a controversial agreement with China over the appointment of bishops that’s been excoriated by critics as a deal with the devil. Vatican diplomats have defended the pact on the basis that, however imperfect, it at least keeps channels of communication with Beijing open, providing some potential leverage.

If ever there was a moment to try spending some of that political capital, this may well be it.

As for the Gulf States, Pope Francis made a highly successful outing to the UAE in 2019, signing a “Document on Human Fraternity” with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in Egypt. In general, Francis has made outreach to the Islamic world a key priority, and he’s won the gratitude of many Muslim leaders for his solidarity at key moments, including his repeated insistence that Islam is a religion of peace and terrorism is, therefore, a betrayal of Islamic values.

Once again, now might be the moment to take that good will out for a spin and see what it can do.

Francis’s popularity in Africa is the stuff of legend. He’s already made four trips to Africa, in contrast to the two under Pope Benedict XVI over roughly the same span of time, and he’s poised to make a fifth visit in 2022 to South Sudan. Further, Catholicism in Africa is surging, and a concerted push from Africa’s Catholic leadership in tandem with a charismatic pope could make a difference in how African nations choose to position themselves.

So far, the anti-Putin coalition has mostly deployed hard power, a combination of arming Ukrainians and economic sanctions. Maybe it’s time to apply a dose of soft power too, and Pope Francis would be in a unique position to lead that effort.

The increasingly sharp language of his top deputy, Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, saying out loud that what’s happening in Ukraine is “a war unleashed by Russia” and expressing unequivocal condemnation of the bombings of a children’s and maternity hospital, may be a signal in that direction.

Here’s what Parolin said Saturday in an interview with Vatican Editorial Director Andrea Torniell, speaking of refugees fleeing the war.

“Over the last few days, I have come across a group of them, who have arrived in Italy from various parts of Ukraine: blank stares, faces without smiles, endless sadness… What is the fault of those young mothers and their children? We would have to possess a heart of stone in order to remain impassive and allow this havoc to continue, as rivers of blood and tears continue to flow.” Parolin also explicitly rejected Russia’s description of the conflict as a “special military operation” for humanitarian ends, saying, “Words are important, and to define what is happening in Ukraine as a military operation is to fail to recognize the reality of the facts. We are facing a war, which unfortunately claims many civilian victims, as all wars do.”

Parolin also said he has expressed to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov “the Holy See’s total availability for any kind of mediation that could favor peace in Ukraine.”

Popes don’t possess any magic wands in these situations. Paul VI tried to work behind the scenes to end the Vietnam War; John Paul II pulled out all the stops to try to persuade the Bush administration not to invade Iraq, and both failed. Nonetheless, history at least remembers the effort, and it will also do so right now depending on how Francis plays his cards.

Follow John Allen on Twitter: @JohnLAllenJr