Pope Francis has said he is considering a visit to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, in what would be the most high-profile visit by a global figure since Russia invaded the country.
The head of the Catholic Church was invited by the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyand the city’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, together with Ukrainian religious leaders on March 8.
At the time of the call, the Vatican confirmed receipt of a letter and said the Pope was praying for Ukrainians but did not mention any plans to travel.
But asked by a reporter on the plane that took him from Rome to Malta on Saturday if he was considering an invitation, Francis said: “Yes, it’s on the table.” He did not give enough details.
The call of Ukrainian political leaders was supported by Archbishop Svyatoslav Shevchuk of the Byzantine Catholic Church in Ukraine and Ukraine’s ambassador to the Vatican, Andrey Yurash.
Francis had previously described Vladimir Putin’s war as “unjustified aggression” and denounced “atrocities”, but was careful not to mention Russia’s responsibility for the war.
On Thursday, Roberta Mitsula, President of the European Parliament, met with Zelensky in Kyiv to give the message that the EU would help rebuild the country after the war.
On March 16 the prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia made the most famous visit to date. At a press conference after the meeting, Czech Prime Minister Petr Viala told the Ukrainians: “Europe stands with you.”
Pope Francis, 85, was visiting Malta on Saturday for a two-day trip in a bid to draw attention to the migration crisis exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.
After landing, he first used an elevator to get off the ITA plane to the runway. He also sat in his small car while touring Valletta, the island’s capital. Francis has had a painful sore knee for months.
More than 10.5 million people have been displaced either within Ukraine or abroad as refugees, a total of about a quarter of the country’s population. It is estimated that around 13 million people are in dire need of humanitarian assistance across the country.
Mitsula met Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki with Ukrainian refugees on Saturday morning at Otok School in Warsaw.
“We are touched by the efforts made by Poland, its communities and its citizens,” she said. You have given people in need a safe and secure place. It’s a pleasure to see it – it’s the best of Europe.
However, Poland was to bear the brunt of the consequences of the war outside Ukraine. Therefore, we need more support for Poland and other countries receiving and hosting people fleeing the war in Ukraine.”
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