OAN Brooke Mallory
UPDATED 6:25 PM – Monday, May 1, 2023
Pope Francis said on Sunday that the Vatican is actively involved in efforts to bring an end to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and that it is also prepared to assist in the return of Ukrainian children who have allegedly been abducted to Russia or territories held by Russian forces.
“There is a mission in course now but it is not yet public. When it is public, I will reveal it,” the Pope said during his flight home, after a trip to Hungary.
“I think that peace is always made by opening channels. You can never achieve peace through closure… This is not easy.”
The Pope further stated that he had discussed the Ukrainian conflict with both Metropolitan (bishop) Hilarion, a representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Budapest, and with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
“In these meetings we did not just talk about Little Red Riding Hood. We spoke of all these things. Everyone is interested in the road to peace,” he maintained.
Francis has reportedly encouraged and pleaded for peace almost every week since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, and he has frequently mentioned his desire to serve as a mediator between Kiev and Moscow. However, his proposals have not yet resulted in any significant progress.
Ukraine Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal met the 86-year-old Pope at the Vatican on Thursday and said he had discussed a “peace mission,” set in motion by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Shmyhal also requested assistance with the repatriation of children. Since Moscow’s invasion of Crimea in February of last year, Kyiv estimated that (allegedly) almost 19,500 minors have been deported illegally, either to Russia or to the Russian-occupied territory.
“The Holy See is willing to do this (help repatriate the children) because it is the right thing,” Francis said on the flight. “All human gestures help, but gestures of cruelty don’t help. We have to do all that is humanly possible.”
Francis, who looked to be in reasonably good health throughout the tour, also specifically addressed his health after being hospitalized in late March for what the Vatican claimed at the time was bronchitis.
He said that he had experienced severe pain on March 29th and tried to fall asleep.
“I did not lose consciousness but I had a high fever and at 3pm the doctor took me to the hospital right away,” the Pope said.
“It was a strong and acute pneumonia in the lower section of the lung. Thank God I can talk about it. The body responded well to the treatment, thank God,” he said. The Pope was released on April 1st.
The Pope had a portion of one of his lungs removed more than fifty years ago, when he was only a young man living in Argentina. Some sources have suggested that this might have contributed to his sudden onset bronchitis.
He ended the meeting by stating that there had been no modifications to the itinerary for his separate trips to Lisbon in August, and then Marseilles, and lastly, Mongolia.
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