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Russia accepts Vatican peace initiative, says no steps yet for a mission to Moscow

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VATICAN CITY — Russia indicated Friday that it views Pope Francis’ Ukraine peace initiative positively, but stressed that there were no immediate plans for a Vatican mission in Moscow.

The statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry to the state RIA Novosti agency was the first public acknowledgment of the pope’s move by Moscow. It followed the Vatican’s weekend announcement that Italian Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, a veteran of the Catholic Church’s peace mediation initiative, had been tapped by Francis as his envoy.

“We acknowledge the Holy See’s sincere desire to promote the peace process,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said, according to RIA Novosti. “At the same time, no practical steps have been taken by the Vatican to organize the trip to Moscow.”

Zuppi told reporters on Thursday that the mission’s scope was to “help ease the tension of the conflict”, adding that it hoped it could contribute to a “path to peace”. He drew parallels with the Rome-based Sant’Egidio community in the 1990s as well as his efforts to help negotiate peace that ended the civil war in Mozambique.

Nevertheless, Zuppi said, the church’s initiative began with the hope of finding a “path of peace” and resulted in meetings that brought the warring sides together with “woven bonds” between the factions, and eventually a Peace compromises.

“The effort (in Ukraine) will definitely be in that sense,” Zuppi said, speaking at the conclusion of the Italian bishops’ conference. “we will see.”

Francis announced the existence of a peace mission last month while on his way home from Hungary, where he met with an envoy from the Russian Orthodox Church, which has strongly supported the Kremlin’s war. In the weeks that followed, Francis met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the Vatican, who made it clear that he would not accept territorial concessions and dismissed Francis’ reference to the victims of both sides of the conflict, saying that There can be no commonality between the victim and the aggressor. ,

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, head of the CEI (Italian Conference of Bishops), speaks during a press conference at the end of the General Assembly of the 77th CEI, Thursday, May 25, 2023, at the Vatican. Credit: AP/Domenico Steinellis

Zuppi noted that Francis’ hope for peace “brought the Holy Father to tears,” a reference to 8 December, when Francis prayed for peace in Ukraine while weeping in front of a statue of the Madonna in downtown Rome.