Pope Francis stated on Sunday that the Vatican is actively involved in efforts to bring an end to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and that it is also prepared to assist in the return of Ukrainian children who have been abducted to Russia or territory that is held by Russian forces.
“There is a mission in course now but it is not yet public. When it is public, I will reveal it,” Pope told reporters on a flight home after a three-day visit to Hungary.
“I think that peace is always made by opening channels. You can never achieve peace through closure. … This is not easy,” he added.
The pope continued by saying that he had discussed the situation in Ukraine with both Metropolitan (bishop) Hilarion, a representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Budapest, and with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
“In these meetings we did not just talk about Little Red Riding Hood. We spoke of all these things. Everyone is interested in the road to peace,” he continued.
Francis has prayed for peace almost weekly since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 and has frequently stated his desire to serve as a mediator between Kiev and Moscow. His proposal hasn’t resulted to any significant progress to date.
The 86-year-old Pope Francis has already stated that he wishes to travel to Kyiv and Moscow for a peace mission.
Denys Shmyhal, Ukrainian Prime Minister, met with Pope Francis last Thursday at the Vatican. He claimed to have discussed a “peace formula” proposed by Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Shmyhal also requested assistance with the return of children. According to Ukraine’s estimates, 19,500 children have been abducted by Russia and taken there or Crimea, now Russian-occupied, since it invaded Ukraine last year.
Francis added on the plane, “The Holy See is willing to do this (help repatriate the children) because it is the right thing. All human gestures help but gestures of cruelty don’t help. We have to do all that is humanly possible”.