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Vatican: Pope Francis tasks cardinal with mission aimed at paving 'paths to peace' in Ukraine


ROME (AP) — Pope Francis has tasked a leading Italian cardinal with a mission in hopes it can “ease tensions” in the Ukraine war and lead to a path of peace, the Vatican said Saturday.

In a brief written statement, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said that Francis had entrusted the mission to Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, who is close to the pontiff.

Bruni said the timetable and the mechanics of the mission “are currently under study.”

Just a week earlier, Francis held talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the Vatican. Afterwards, Zelenskyy, when asked about their meeting, indicated he thought that any mediation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who ordered the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, was impossible.

At the end of April, flying back to Rome from a pilgrimage in Hungary, Francis indicated to reporters aboard the plane that the Vatican was involved in some kind of peace mission but declined to give details.

"I can confirm that Pope Francis has tasked Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, archbishop of Bologna and president of the Italian Bishops Conference, with conducting a mission, in agreement with the (Vatican) Secretariat of State, that would contribute to easing the tensions in the conflict in Ukraine, in the hope, never given up by the Holy Father, that this can launch paths of peace,'' Bruni said.

"The timings of such a mission, and its ways, are currently under study,'' the spokesman said.

Earlier in the week, an Italian website that focuses on Vatican issues indicated that the pope had tapped personal envoys to talk to both Zelenskyy and Putin in hopes of brokering a cease-fire.

The brief statement Saturday evening by the Vatican made no mention of Russia.

Francis has repeatedly denounced the war, warned against a buildup of weapons in the conflict and prayed for the suffering Ukrainian people. He generally has shied away, in his many comments on the war, from blaming Putin.

The pontiff has said he would go to Kyiv, Ukraine's capital, if the pilgrimage would help bring peace, but said that could happen only if he could also visit Moscow.