Cardinal Zuppi in prayer before the Icon of Our Lady of Vladimir in Moscow Cardinal Zuppi in prayer before the Icon of Our Lady of Vladimir in Moscow 

Pope's envoy in Moscow to meet Russian Patriarch

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi is on a mission to Russia as the Pope's envoy for peace. On 29 June he meets with the Russian Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. On Wednesday he held talks with Yuri Ushakov, the presidential advisor for foreign policy and met with Catholic bishops in the Nunciature.

By Linda Bordoni and Salvatore Cernuzio

"As you know, the mission that the Holy Father Francis has entrusted to His Eminence Cardinal Zuppi is to identify and encourage humanitarian initiatives that will enable us to start on a path that, we hope, will lead to the much-desired peace”.

With these words, Archbishop Giovanni D’Aniello, the apostolic nuncio in Moscow briefed journalists after Cardinal Zuppi’s meeting with Yuri Ushakov, President Vladimir Putin's advisor for foreign policy issues.

This, the archbishop said, “was discussed yesterday in the meeting His Eminence had with Mr Uchakov.”

Top-level meetings

He also revealed that the Pope’s envoy will meet Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, Commissioner for Children's Rights and that in the afternoon, there will be a meeting with His Holiness Patriarch Kirill.

The focus of the meeting with the Commissioner for Children’s Rights is the issue of the over 19,000 Ukrainian children who have been deported to Russia, an issue on which President Zelensky had asked the Holy See for help during his audience with Pope Francis in May.

“On Thursday evening His Eminence will preside a solemn Eucharistic concelebration in the Cathedral dedicated to the Mother of God, where he will meet the Catholic community, to whom he will convey the Holy Father's greetings, closeness and prayers,” he said, noting that “tomorrow, in the early afternoon, His Eminence will return to Rome."

Cardinal Zuppi, the President of the Italian Episcopal Conference, is in Moscow on a three-day mission on the Pope’s behalf (28-30 June) to find “ways for a just peace”.

The power of prayer

The first and only image to reach us so far two days into his mission as the Pope’s envoy to Moscow, is a photograph of the Cardinal kneeling before a Marion icon: it represents Our Lady of Vladimir, also known as the Mother of Tenderness, and is the oldest Marian icon in Russia, displayed in the Tretyakov Gallery, not far from the Kremlin.

Prayer, therefore, is first and foremost in Cardinal Zuppi’s mission, now in its second stage after the one to Kyiv last 5-6 June.

On that occasion, the Cardinal had met President Volodymir Zelensky. In Moscow on Wednesday he was received by Yuri Ushakov, President Vladimir Putin's advisor for foreign policy issues.

The 76-year-old diplomat is the former Russian ambassador to the United States from 1998 to 2008.

Russia welcomes initiative

On Wednesday, according to Russian press agencies, including Interfax which quoted a comment by Kremlin spokesman, Dimitry Peskov, the talks focused on the conflict in Ukraine and “possible ways for a political and diplomatic solution”.

During a briefing following the meeting between Zuppi and Ushakov, Peskov said: 'In general, we have already stated several times that we highly value the efforts and initiatives of the Vatican in looking for a peaceful solution to the Ukrainian crisis. We welcome this willingness of the Pope to contribute to ending the armed conflict in Ukraine”.

Cardinal Zuppi then met in the afternoon with the Catholic bishops of Russia at the Nunciature, headed by Archbishop Giovanni D'Aniello.

In an interview with Vatican News, the Metropolitan Archbishop of the Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow said that at the end of Cardinal Zuppi's mission, it may be possible to see "concrete gestures such as a new exchange of prisoners or the announcement of initiatives to support the many refugees and fugitives that this conflict is causing."

Archbishop Paolo Pezzi also spoke of the possibility of a meeting between Cardinal Zuppi and the Orthodox Patriarch Kirill: "The Christian faith knows the path of reconciliation and forgiveness; it knows the witness of peace lived in one's own heart, in families, among peoples.,” he said.

“This is why,” the prelate continued, “there is a need for the involvement of religious leaders in this dialogue. According to my information, Cardinal Zuppi is expected to meet with the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill. If so, it will be a truly important occasion”.

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29 June 2023, 10:23