- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Besieged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke early Tuesday to Pope Francis and pressed him to play a “mediating role” in ending the suffering caused by Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion.

Ukraine’s Vatican ambassador added that the pontiff “is the most awaited guest in Ukraine,” the official Vatican News Service reported.

The two leaders spoke for the second time in less than a month Tuesday morning. Francis and Mr. Zelenskyy first spoke via telephone on Feb. 26, during which the pontiff spoke of his “most profound pain for the tragic events unfolding in our country.”

In this latest conversation, the Ukrainian leader appealed to Francis for diplomatic assistance.

“[I] told His Holiness about the difficult humanitarian situation and the blocking of rescue corridors by Russian troops. The mediating role of the Holy See in ending human suffering would be appreciated. Thanked for the prayers for Ukraine and peace,” Mr. Zelenskyy tweeted.

Earlier, on March 12, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said the Holy See had “full readiness for any mediation that can help peace in Ukraine,” something the prelate said he also had told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in a phone conversation.

Mr. Zelenskyy, in a Tuesday video address to Italy’s parliament, said the pontiff “had some very important words.” The Ukrainian leader said he told Francis about his nation’s people “who became an army when it saw evil.”

Both Ukraine and Russia are mostly Orthodox nations with churches that split from the Catholic Church a millennium ago. Ukraine has a larger Catholic minority (about 10% of its population) than does Russia (less than 1%).

Pope Francis told a Sunday congregation at the Vatican about his visit with Ukrainian refugee children being treated at Rome’s Bambino Gesu (Baby Jesus) Hospital and of the casualties suffered by “innocent children.”

Addressing the Sunday Angelus prayer audience, Francis added, “Unfortunately, the violent aggression against Ukraine does not stop, a senseless massacre where every day there is a repetition of slaughter and atrocities. There is no justification for this! I plead with all those involved in the international community to truly commit to ending this abhorrent war.”

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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