ROME – On Tuesday, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin had a phone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, which reportedly focused largely on humanitarian concerns and the desire to bring hostilities to an end.
According to a statement published on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website, after Parolin expressed “his concern over the situation in Ukraine” during the March 8 phone call, Lavrov outlined Russia’s position “regarding the causes and goals of the special military operation being carried out in Ukraine.”
In the course of the conversation, particular attention was paid to humanitarian issues related to the conflict, including possible measures to protect the civilian population, as well as the organization and functioning of humanitarian corridors, and assistance to refugees.
“The parties expressed hope for the soonest holding of the next round of talks between Moscow and Kiev and reaching an agreement on resolving the key problems underlying the Ukrainian crisis in order to resolve it and stop hostilities,” the statement said.
Now in its 13th day, the war in Ukraine began Feb. 24 when Russian troops invaded Ukraine claiming that it was carrying out a “special military operation” to rid Ukraine of corruption and “Nazis” within its government.
Ukrainian armed forces have estimated that over 11,000 Russian troops have been killed so far in the conflict, whereas Moscow puts the death toll closer to 500. In terms of Ukrainian casualties, Russia claims nearly 3,000 have been killed in the conflict, whereas Ukraine puts the estimates much lower.
According to the United Nations, over 400 civilians have already died in the crossfire of hostilities, and an additional 800 more have been injured.
The Vatican confirmed the phone call in a March 8 statement, which said Parolin conveyed the popes “deep concern for the war in Ukraine and reaffirmed what the pope said last Sunday in his Angelus.”
In his March 6 Sunday Angelus address, Pope Francis warned that “rivers of blood and tears” were running through Ukraine, and said the conflict is “not only a military operation,” as Russia has insisted, but us “a war, which sows death, destruction, and misery.”
Parolin, according to the Vatican’s statement, reiterated the pope’s appeal for armed attacks to stop, allowing humanitarian corridors to be opened for both civilians and rescuers, and “to replace the violence of weapons with negotiation.”
In this spirit, Parolin reiterated the Holy See’s willingness “to do everything, to put itself at the service of this peace.”
Officials from Kyiv and Moscow held their third round of talks Monday in western Belarus, focusing largely on the urgency of humanitarian corridors. Russian officials have apparently offered to allow Ukrainian refugees safe passage over their borders or into Belarus, however, Ukrainian officials have rejected this offer as “immoral.”
Parolin on several occasions has expressed the Vatican’s openness and willingness to help mediate the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
In recent comments given to TV2000, the official television station of the Italian bishops, Parolin said the Holy See has three levels of engagement in the Ukraine war, the first of which is at the religious level, then at a humanitarian level, and also at the diplomatic level.
Various attempts at diplomatic engagement “are being made throughout the world,” he said, adding, “We are available. If it’s considered that our presence and our action can help, we are there.”
The Vatican, he said, is willing to lend a hand “in all ways to be able to stop the weapons and violence and negotiate a solution.”
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