Pope Francis met Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the Vatican on May 13, 2023, their first meeting since the start of the full-scale war with Russia. / Vatican Media.
Vatican City, May 13, 2023 / 09:52 am (CNA).
Pope Francis and the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, met at the Vatican on Saturday.
The May 13 encounter — their first since Russia initiated a full-scale war in Ukraine over 14 months ago — was around 40 minutes long.
The two met in a small office off of the Paul VI Hall, which is close to Pope Francis’ Vatican residence.
Pope Francis greeted Zelenskyy at the door of the building. The two shook hands and the Ukrainian president placed his hand on his heart and said, in English, “great honor.”
Pope Francis met Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the Vatican on May 13, 2023, their first meeting since the start of the full-scale war with Russia. Vatican Media
The Holy See Press Office said Francis and Zelenskyy spoke about the humanitarian and political situation in Ukraine amid the conflict.
“The pope assured of his constant prayers, evidenced by his many public appeals and continuous invocations to the Lord for peace since February last year,” the press office said. “The pope particularly stressed the urgent need for ‘gestures of humanity’ toward the most fragile people, the innocent victims of the conflict.”
Zelenskyy’s gifts to Francis were a painting of the Virgin Mary and Child titled “Loss 2022-58,” about the death of children in the conflict, and a collage made of bulletproof plate, wood, and paint from a series called “Protect the Defender.” The collage also features an image of the Virgin Mary.
The Ukrainian president spent in total about one hour at the Vatican.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy (center) speaks with Archbishop Richard Gallagher (second from right), secretary for relations with states, in the presence of Ukraine’s ambassador to the Holy See, Andrii Yurash (third from left), on May 13, 2023. Vatican Media
He also spoke with the Vatican’s foreign minister, Archbishop Richard Gallagher. They conversed in English in the presence of Ukraine’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Andrii Yurash.
On Saturday morning, Zelenskyy met with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, and later, with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.
Meloni and Zelenskyy gave a nearly 30-minute joint press conference in the afternoon before the Ukrainian president proceeded to the Vatican for his meeting with Pope Francis.
“We are betting on Ukraine’s victory,” Meloni said at the press conference. “We will continue to provide support, including military support, so that Ukraine can arrive at the negotiations with a solid position.”
Zelenskyy thanked Meloni for welcoming him to Italy and for giving shelter to Ukrainian citizens during the war.
Meloni said Italy was Zelenskyy’s first stop in a tour of Europe this month.
The Ukrainian president is scheduled to appear live on one of Italy’s state television channels, Rai1, during a special edition of the program “Porta a Porta” on Saturday evening.