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Pope Francis meets President Zelensky for the first time during war

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Pope Francis is meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Rome.

It comes after Francis claimed that the Vatican was engaged in a covert effort to resolve the conflict.

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Upon his arrival in Italy, where he also had meetings with Premier Giorgia Meloni and President Sergio Mattarella, Mr. Zelensky tweeted: “An important visit for approaching victory of Ukraine!”

The pair promised full military and financial backing for Ukraine and reiterated the country’s support for its EU membership bid.

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Zelensky flew to Rome on an Italian government plane that was escorted over Italian airspace by fighter jets. He was due to be received in Berlin on Sunday.

His meeting with the pope is the most significant part of his visit.

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Mr Zelensky previously met Francis at the Vatican in 2020 and the two have had several phone conversations since the war began.

At the start of the war, the pope tried to take a balanced approach in hopes of being a mediator but later began forcefully condemning Russia’s actions, comparing them to some of the worst crimes against Ukraine during the Soviet era.

Returning from a trip to Hungary on April 30, Francis made an intriguing but puzzling comment about the Vatican being involved in a mission to try to end the war.

‘There is a mission in course now but it is not yet public. When it is public, I will reveal it,’ he told reporters during the papal flight home.

Francis has pleaded for peace practically on a weekly basis, and has repeatedly expressed a wish to act as a broker between Kyiv and Moscow.

His offer has so far failed to produce any breakthrough.

The pope has a standing invitation from Mr Zelensky to visit Kyiv but has said previously that he also wants to visit Moscow as part of the same peace mission.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal met the pope at the Vatican on April 27 and said he had discussed a ‘peace formula’ put forward by Mr Zelensky.

The president and his team have been vigorously promoting Kyiv’s 10-point peace plan and urging world leaders to hold a Global Peace Summit based on the proposals.

It calls for restoring Ukraine’s territorial integrity, the withdrawal of Russian troops and cessation of hostilities, and the restoration of Ukraine’s state borders.

Mr Zelensky has repeatedly said the plan is not open to negotiations.

The pope has said the Vatican is willing to do ‘all that is humanly possible’ to help the repatriation of Ukrainian children.

Kyiv estimates nearly 19,500 children have been taken to Russia or Russian-occupied Crimea since February 2022, in what it condemns as illegal deportations.


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