Cardinal Zuppi brings President Biden a letter from Pope Francis
On 17-19 July, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, special envoy of Pope Francis to seek peace in Ukraine, visited Washington DC, marking the latest step in his mission to alleviate the suffering of the war-torn Ukrainian people and favour a path to peace.
The visit came in the wake of a visit to Kyiv, during which the Cardinal met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and to Moscow, where he engaged in talks with the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, and other government officials.
The Holy See Press Office said in a press release on Wednesday that Cardinal Zuppi was accompanied during the visit to the US Capitol by an Official of the Vatican Secretariat of State, "in order to continue the mission entrusted to him by Pope Francis and in that capacity meet with the President of the United States, Joseph R. Biden.”
Upon his arrival at the Apostolic Nunciature, on the evening of 17 July, the statement said the Cardinal had a conversation with Archbishop Timothy Broglio, President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. During that meeting, the prelates exchanged reflections on the war in Ukraine and on the Holy See's initiatives in favour of the victims and of peace.
The following morning, the Vatican Delegation, including the Apostolic Nuncio, Cardinal-elect Christophe Pierre, and Mgsr. Séamus Patrick Horgan, first Councillor of the Apostolic Nunciature to the US, met with members of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission) of the United States Government.
In the course of that meeting, the Cardinal illustrated the nature and developments of the mission entrusted to him by the Pope, and those present discussed ways on how it could be rendered more effective.
On the afternoon of the same day, the papal envoy and the other members of the Delegation were received by President Joseph R. Biden at the White House. The statement said the Cardinal handed a letter from the Holy Father to President Biden, emphasising the Pope's sorrow for the suffering caused by the war.
“The meeting, which began shortly after 5 pm and lasted over an hour, took place in an atmosphere of great cordiality and mutual listening,” the statement said, adding that “during the meeting, readiness was assured to support humanitarian initiatives, in particular for children and for those who are most fragile, aiming both to respond to this urgency and to foster paths of peace.”
The statement concluded saying that on the morning of 19 July, the Vatican Delegation attended a Prayer Breakfast at Congress, during which Cardinal Zuppi had the opportunity to “brief participants on the meetings he had during the various stages of his peace mission.”
During that occasion, it said, “appreciation was expressed for the efforts of the Holy See and the responsibility of every individual to work for peace was underscored.”
Apostolic Nuncio’s cautious optimism
In an interview with Vatican News, the Apostolic Nuncio in Washington expressed his hope that Cardinal Zuppi’s mission will lead to progress on the humanitarian front, particularly with regard to "the children who have been transported from Ukraine to Russia".
Cardinal-elect Christophe Pierre, who was present during the papal envoy’s meetings said: “The President listened a lot, and he expressed his satisfaction for the Pope’s initiative, and we had a long exchange about the view of the President and the view of the Holy Father on the issue.”
“The Cardinal insisted on the fact that we want to contribute, even though we do not have the potential to resolve immediately all the problems. We know their complexity,” Cardinal-elect Pierre said.
The Nuncio added that although there are no tangible results for the moment, it's important to expend every effort on behalf of those who are suffering. “I think everywhere here, in the various encounters the Cardinal had today, showed that the people are very sensitive to that dimension and they are ready to help.”
The role of the Holy See
At a diplomatic level, the soon-to-be Cardinal, Christophe Pierre, said the contribution of the Church in the life of the world is crucial: “The Holy See is part of the world, and the consequences of the war are terrible for the people. I speak about the refugees, the people who have died, the trauma, especially in particular the question of the children.”
And as diplomats, he concluded, “We have to work step by step. We take the first step when it is possible, and one of these steps is precisely what the Cardinal is doing, without claiming to be able to resolve everything, and we have a lot of hope for the future.”