The Pope’s peace envoy in Ukraine describes the war as a “pandemic” affecting everyone

ROME — Pope Francis’ peace envoy to Ukraine, a veteran of the Catholic Church’s conflict mediation activities, on Tuesday described the war as an “epidemic” and declared that all Christians are called to be peacemakers.

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, in his first public comments since his appointment as Envoy to Ukraine, called for the creation of a culture of peace to respond to the “deep, sometimes unspoken, often unheard anxiety” of peoples in need of peace.

The Vatican confirmed on Saturday that Francis had entrusted Zuppi with the mission to “help ease the tension in the conflict in Ukraine, in the never-ending hope of the Holy Father that this could start the path of peace”. No further details have been released, the Vatican says they are still under study.

Zuppi, 67, is the archbishop of Bologna, president of the Italian bishops’ conference and a veteran of the Catholic Church’s peace mediation initiatives through his long-standing association with the Sant’Egidio community. Through the Rome-based charity, Zuppi helped broker peace accords in the 1990s that ended civil wars in Guatemala and Mozambique and chaired a commission to negotiate a cease-fire in Burundi in 2000, according to Sant’Egidio.

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Zuppi, a Franciscan-style priest considered to be a “papabila” – possessing the qualities of a future pope – was appointed last year to head the Italian bishops’ conference, in which role he opened the conference’s spring session on Tuesday with a wide-ranging speech Italian church, which also resided in Ukraine.

Citing Francis, Zuppi recalled the pope’s frequent, emotional expressions of solidarity with the “martyred” Ukrainian people, and appeared to address his frequent criticism of the Vatican’s diplomatic tradition of neutrality, as well as Francis’ refusal to publicly call out the Kremlin.

Zuppi suggested that Francis was by no means neutral on the issue of peace.

“Today we are grateful for his prophecy, it is so rare when we talk about peace that he seems to avoid taking sides or not accepting responsibility,” he said.

He said that all Christians are called to do their part to create peace, saying: “War is a pandemic. It affects all of us.”

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“The Church and Christians believe in peace, we are all called to be peacemakers, even more so in the terrible storm of conflict,” he said.

Ferenc announced the existence of a peace mission on his way home from Hungary last month, where he met with a representative of the Russian Orthodox Church, which strongly supports the war. In the weeks since, Francis has met at the Vatican with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi, who has made it clear he will not accept territorial concessions and rejected Francis’ reference to victims on both sides of the conflict, saying victim and aggressor cannot be equated. .