Forty minutes. This how long it took Pope Francis to acknowledge the final decision of the Ukrainian head of state. Volodymyr Zelensky, whose country is continually counting the dead, refuses to seize the proposal for mediation by the Vatican in order to put an end to the conflict which has bloodied the gates of Europe for more than a year.
At the very moment – on May 13, 2023 – when the Sovereign Pontiff received Volodymyr Zelensky in audience, the head of Vatican diplomacy, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, was in Fatima to commemorate the 106th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady to the three shepherd children.
At the end of the audience granted to him by the Roman Pontiff, Volodymyr Zelensky made a brief statement on his Twitter and Telegram accounts: “I am grateful to Pope Francis for the attention he personally pays to the tragedy of million Ukrainians. I spoke of the tens of thousands of deported Ukrainian children. We must do everything we can to bring them home.”
“Furthermore, I asked for a condemnation of Russian crimes in Ukraine. Because there can be no equality between the victim and the aggressor. I also talked about our peace formula as the only effective algorithm for achieving a just peace. Since the war is on Ukrainian territory, the peace plan can only be Ukrainian.”
The only common ground – if there is one – between the Holy See and Ukraine perhaps lies in the fate of Ukrainian children transferred to Russia, a subject on which Pope Francis is concerned about. He is also concerned about the exchange of prisoners.
The next day, in St. Peter's Square, during the traditional Regina Coeli prayer, the Pope spoke of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in terms that might seem to constitute a covert response to Volodymyr Zelensky: “Security and stability will never be achieved with arms, but to the contrary, any hope for peace will continue to be destroyed.”
Finally, note the enigmatic gift that the Ukrainian president offered to Peter's successor: a bulletproof vest. Some see this as a nod to the third part of the secret of Fatima unveiled in the year 2000.
But it is also necessary to know how to go beyond words. It is quite obvious that neither Ukraine nor Russia will publicly admit mediation by the Holy See, especially in the current state of the battle front and the rumors of a “counter-attack” from the Ukrainian side, which leaves the possibility of a truly secret action.
In the meantime, however, we must pray that this war comes to its conclusion as soon as possible, because a new bloodbath in the weeks and months to come seems to be the only foreseeable thing without the intervention of Providence.