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Cardinal Matteo Zuppi's Diplomatic Mission to Beijing for Peace in Ukraine
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In a significant diplomatic effort to foster peace in the ongoing Ukraine-Russia conflict, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, an esteemed representative of the Vatican, is embarking on a mission to Beijing this week. Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni confirmed this initiative on Tuesday, stating that Cardinal Zuppi will serve as Pope Francis's peace envoy from September 13th to September 15th.
Photo credit: Polina Rytova
This mission aligns with Pope Francis's persistent commitment to supporting humanitarian initiatives and seeking just pathways to peace. His Holiness has entrusted Cardinal Zuppi with the crucial role of initiating peace-building endeavors between Russia and Ukraine.
During his stay in China, Cardinal Zuppi is expected to hold discussions with Chinese Premier Li Qiang, although specific details about these meetings have not been disclosed by the Vatican.
Pope Francis has described Cardinal Zuppi's visit to Beijing as an integral part of the Vatican's "peace offensive." This multifaceted peace initiative has already seen papal visits to Kyiv, Moscow, and Washington, D.C. Furthermore, Pope Francis has contemplated the possibility of appointing a permanent representative to act as a bridge between Russia and Ukraine, emphasizing the Vatican's unwavering commitment to brokering peace in the region.
However, the Vatican's diplomatic efforts faced a recent setback when Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, criticized Pope Francis as "pro-Russian" and "not credible." These comments followed the Pope's mention of imperial czars and "great Mother Russia" during a video conference with Russian youth in August.
In response to Podolyak's assertions, the Vatican promptly refuted any claims suggesting that the Vatican Bank, or IOR, receives or invests money from Russia. The Vatican emphasized that such activities would be both untrue and impossible, given international sanctions and the bank's stringent policies.
Pope Francis himself acknowledged the inappropriateness of his earlier comments regarding "great Russia" during a press conference on his return from Mongolia. He clarified that his remarks were intended to highlight Russia's rich cultural heritage rather than endorsing imperial ambitions.
Furthermore, the Vatican clarified that the Pope did not intend to exalt Russian imperialism, addressing concerns expressed by Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
Cardinal Zuppi, however, remains resolute in his peace mission, expressing confidence that the recent criticism of the Pope will not hinder the diplomatic efforts. He believes that any doubts or concerns will be addressed as they arise and underlines the enduring support provided by the Church and Pope Francis to the Ukrainian people during their suffering.
Importantly, Cardinal Zuppi clarified that the Vatican is not seeking an official mediation role in the peace process in Ukraine but is dedicated to offering assistance and support to promote peace.
Cardinal Zuppi, who serves as the Archbishop of Bologna and president of the Italian Bishops' Conference, boasts strong connections to the peace-building community Sant'Egidio. This Catholic lay association has played instrumental roles in peace negotiations in numerous countries, including Mozambique, South Sudan, Congo, Burundi, and the Central African Republic.
Speaking at a Sant'Egidio conference in Berlin, Cardinal Zuppi emphasized the pivotal role China can play in achieving peace in Ukraine. He stressed that peace requires collective efforts from all stakeholders, including nations with significant influence like China. Cardinal Zuppi called for a broad alliance for peace, highlighting the unpredictable nature of peace-building efforts and the necessity for commitment from all quarters.
Cardinal Matteo Zuppi's mission to Beijing underscores the Vatican's unwavering dedication to promoting peace and stability in Ukraine, even in the face of challenges. As he engages in diplomatic discussions in the Chinese capital, the world watches with hope that his efforts will contribute to finding lasting solutions to the conflict in Eastern Europe.
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