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Pope Francis meets with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy

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This image made available by Vatican News shows Pope Francis meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during a private audience at The Vatican, Saturday, May 13, 2023. Francis recently said that the Vatican has launched a behind-the-scenes initiative to try to end the war launched last year by Russia. (Vatican News via AP)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meets with Pope Francis at The Vatican on May 13. Vatican News/AP

Vatican’s leader, Pope Francis met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday May 13, at the Vatican.

Zelenskyy’s visit – a rare meeting between a pontiff and a head of state during war, comes two weeks after the pope told reporters that he is engaged in a secret mission to end Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Zelenskyy has made regular appeals for the pope to visit the war-torn country, since the start of the war on February 24, 2022.

The pope has said he will visit Kyiv but only if he could travel to Moscow, as well, to make an appeal for peace.

Upon his arrival at the Vatican, Zelenskyy greeted the Pope at the door of the Vatican’s Pope Paul VI Hall, rather than the Apostolic Palace, which is traditionally used for meetings with heads of state.

“Thank you for this visit,” the pope said to Zelenskyy in Italian. “A great honor,” Zelenskyy replied in English, placing his hand over his heart.

The pope and the president met for 40 minutes behind closed doors, with Zelenskyy giving the pope a bullet-dented plate and a poster in the style of an icon titled “Loss.” The image memorialized the lives of children who died in the early days of the conflict.

In a tweet, Zelenskyy emphasized that he asked the pope to condemn Russian war crimes, writing that “there can be no equality between the victim and the aggressor.”

He also said that he asked the Vatican to back Ukraine’s peace formula, which includes the withdrawal of Russian forces from the country, a restoration of all of Ukraine’s sovereign territory, Russian war reparations and postwar security guarantees for Ukraine.

Zelenskyy’s visit to the Vatican is his second since being elected president of Ukraine in 2019. His last visit took place on Feb. 8, 2020, just prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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