Vatican City, Feb 28, 2022 / 04:40 am (CNA).
The Vatican secretary of state said on Monday that it is not too late for peace negotiations between Russia and Ukraine.
“There is still time for goodwill, there is still room for negotiation,” Cardinal Pietro Parolin said in an interview published jointly by the Italian newspapers Corriere della Sera, La Stampa, La Repubblica, and Il Messaggero.
In the interview, published on Feb. 28, the secretary of state said that, despite the outbreak of conflict, “I am convinced that there is still and always room for negotiation. It is never too late.”
“Because the only reasonable and constructive way to settle differences is dialogue, as the pope never tires of repeating,” he said. “The Holy See, which in recent years has followed the events in Ukraine constantly, discreetly and with great attention, offering its willingness to facilitate dialogue with Russia, is always ready to help the parties to resume that path.”
Parolin referred to Pope Francis’ protocol-breaking visit to the Russian Embassy to the Holy See last Friday, and renewed the pope’s invitation “to stop the fighting and return to negotiations.”
“First of all, the military attack, the tragic consequences of which we are all already witnessing, must be stopped immediately,” Parolin said.
Since the launch of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, Pope Francis has engaged in behind-the-scenes efforts to help end the conflict.
On Feb. 25, he visited the Russian Embassy to the Holy See, located on the Via della Conciliazione near the Vatican. The Catholic author George Weigel told Catholic World Report that the pope spoke with Putin via a secure telephone line during the visit. The Holy See press office said that the pope went to the embassy “to show his concern for the war,” but did not mention a phone call to the Russian president.
On the same day, Pope Francis called Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, who is based in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. The pope promised to do everything he can to help end the war.
On Feb. 26, Pope Francis expressed his sorrow at the situation in Ukraine in a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
In the Feb. 28 interview, Parolin quoted Pope Pius XII, who said a few days before the outbreak of World War II in 1939: “Let man return to understanding. Let them resume negotiating. Negotiating with goodwill and with respect for each other’s rights, they will realize that sincere and active negotiations are never precluded from honorable success.”
Parolin said that the possibility of “a new cold war with two opposing blocs” was a “very disturbing scenario” that was “exactly the opposite of the culture of fraternity Pope Francis proposes as the only path to build a just, supportive and peaceful world.”
The secretary of state also expressed horror at the possibility of a wider European conflict, but said he would not exclude the possibility of it happening.
“I don’t even dare to think that. It would be a catastrophe of gigantic proportions, although, unfortunately, it is not an eventuality to be completely excluded,” he said.
He added that the different Christian communions can also “play a vital role” in bringing peace.
“Today we see encouraging signs in the appeals of the heads of the Orthodox Churches, who show willingness to leave aside the memory of each other’s wounds and to work together for peace,” he commented.
Ukraine is an Eastern European country of 44 million people bordering Belarus, Russia, Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland. It is Europe’s second-largest country by area after Russia.
The U.N. refugee agency said on Feb. 27 that 368,000 people have fled Ukraine since the start of the invasion. More than 150,000 people have crossed the country’s western border into Poland. More than 43,000 have entered Romania via Ukraine’s southern border. Thousands have also crossed into Moldova, to the south, and Slovakia, to the West.
“The events of these last days have deeply saddened me,” Parolin said. “We must avoid any escalation, stop the war and negotiate.”