By Isabella Piro
“A war of attrition” in which ” it is incumbent upon the international community to keep the hope of dialogue, the hope of negotiation alive”: this is how Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States and International Organizations, defines the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. In an interview with America magazine’s correspondent, Gerard O’Connell, the Vatican prelate recalls his recent visit to Ukraine in May: ”What I think I learned – said – was the resilience of the people, their determination, their courage. But also I learned about the degree of suffering” there, highlighted by “the great loss of life and by the growing concerns that the war will continue.
The Holy See’s position
For this reason, Archbishop Gallagher underlines the role of the Holy See in calling for negotiations and for the “restoration of peace” “without ignoring the violence and the conflict”. He adds there has been “no explicit invitation” to the Holy See by Russia to mediate, though the two States have maintained contacts ”through the Apostolic Nuncio in Moscow”. Archbishop Gallagher remarks that the position of the Holy See “is appreciated” by Russia, that, however, hasn’t gone a “step further” asking for a possible mediation, as there was no explicit invitation for the Pope to go to Moscow.
Archbishop Gallagher goes on to recall the Holy See’s support for “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine”, reiterating that: “It’s up to the Ukrainians to negotiate with others, with the Russians, obviously, in particular”. Based on this “principle”, he says, the Holy See “would not recognize a unilateral declaration of independence of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions”.
The Pope’s visit to Ukraine
Regarding hopes for a papal visit to Kyiv in August, Archbishop Gallagher remarks that the Pope “has made great progress in his mobility” which has been hindered by his knee problem, and, therefore, may want to start looking into this matter “seriously” in the next month, after his trip to Canada from 24-29 July.
In any case, he says, Pope Francis “wants to and feels he should go to Ukraine”, despite the lack of an invitation from Moscow. “The two things are not linked”. It might be a good thing if they were linked. But I think the Pope’s main priority at this moment is to make the visit to Ukraine, meet with the Ukrainian authorities, meet with the Ukrainian people and with the Ukrainian Catholic Church”, the Vatican representative concluded