ROME – At nearly two weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine, causing civilian deaths, mass displacement, and crippling damage to infrastructure, the Vatican’s top diplomat has doubled down on the Holy See’s willingness to help mediate the conflict.

Speaking to TV2000, the official television station of the Italian bishops, Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin said the Holy See’s intervention in the conflict is happening at several levels, the first of which is “the religious level, which is to invite an insistent prayer so that God grants peace to that martyred land and to involve believers in this choir of prayer.”

There is also help being provided at the humanitarian level, mainly through Caritas and local dioceses, “which like many other organizations, are very committed to welcoming refugees from Ukraine.”

Finally, Parolin said there is also the Vatican’s willingness to engage at the diplomatic level and noted that attempts in this regard “are being made throughout the world.”

“We are available. If it’s considered that our presence and our action can help, we are there,” he said, saying the Vatican has offered to help “in all ways to be able to stop the weapons and violence and negotiate a solution. And there are various attempts that are taking place around the world.”

The war began Feb. 24 when Russian military crossed into Ukrainian territory for what Russian President Vladimir Putin has described as a “special military operation” to remove what he called “Nazis” from the country’s governing circles.

Countries throughout the world have issued harsh sanctions against Russian companies and individuals in a bid to pressure Putin to call off his offensive. Putin, however, currently appears to be unswayed by the economic pressure Russia is facing and has given no indication that he plans to call off the invasion.

In the meantime, Russian troops continue to press forward in Ukrainian territory, the civilian death toll is rising, and Russian soldiers have been accused of committing war crimes by targeting civilians and residential areas.

On Friday, the threat became more acute when Russian military fired on and ignited a fire at Ukraine’s large Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which was later extinguished.

Russian and Ukrainian officials are holding a third round of talks since the war began, which is expected to focus on the establishment of humanitarian corridors allowing Ukrainians fleeing the violence safe passage to surrounding countries.

EU and NATO leaders continue to hold talks on what steps to take next, as countries such as the United States and Canada announce plans to impose fresh sanctions on Russia.

According to Parolin, the most important thing to do at this juncture “is to stop the weapons and the fighting, but above all to avoid an escalation.”

“The first escalation is the verbal one,” he said, saying when certain words or expressions are used, “these do nothing but ignite spirits and bring, I would say naturally and insensibly, the use of many other means which are the deadly weapons that we see in action at this moment in Ukraine.”

Parolin did not explain which words and expressions he was referring to, but the Vatican, and Pope Francis specifically, have faced criticism for the failure to mention Russia or Putin’s name since the war began.

Pope Francis has been vocal both in speeches and on social media in calling for an end to the conflict, saying this past Sunday during his Angelus address that “rivers of blood” are flowing through Ukraine, and rejected Russia’s description of the war as a “special military operation,” but without mentioning Russia.

“This is not just a military operation but a war which sows death, destruction and misery,” he said, speaking to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

The Vatican is also one of the few European countries not demanding that Russia be investigated by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes. United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday that there is “credible” evidence these crimes have taken place.

Pope Francis has, however, also taken several steps indicating that the Vatican is willing to help mediate, including his surprise visit to the Russian Embassy to the Holy See Feb. 25, just a day after Russian troops invaded Ukraine, marking an unprecedented breach in diplomatic protocol.

A Vatican statement published after the 30-minute meeting did not provide details about the conversation, but said the pope visited merely to convey “his concern” regarding the developments in Ukraine.

In previous comments to Italian media, Parolin voiced his belief that “despite the war unleashed by Russia against Ukraine,” negotiation is always possible, making him the only high-ranking Vatican official to date to mention Russia in the context of its conflict with Ukraine, and warned that a “giant catastrophe” awaits if the war spreads to other surrounding countries, as many fear will happen.

The Vatican has been touted by some as an ideal place for peace negotiations to take place, including Ukraine’s new ambassador to the Holy See, Andriy Yurash, who in an interview with Reuters last month suggested the Vatican as a place to hold negotiations for ending the eight-year conflict in eastern Ukraine that preceded Russia’s invasion.

Follow Elise Ann Allen on Twitter: @eliseannallen