The Vatican has been looking for months for a formula to mediate between Russia and Ukraine. Pope Francis himself has said so publicly. "There is a secret mission underway," he said on the flight back from his trip to Hungary last April, appealing to the mystery. But the reality is that it has met with the rejection of both countries, which still look strong enough to continue moving forward without any peace plan coming from abroad. And less of the Vatican, which for the Executive of Volodímir Zelenski has been too equidistant and has not wanted to speak clearly in public of the unjustified and criminal invasion of Russia so as not to bother, they believe, Moscow.
The Holy See, however, insists. And today the man appointed by Francis has traveled to Kiev to try to unclog the situation. Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, president of the Italian Episcopal Conference and archbishop of Bologna, is one of the pontiff's confidants. But he was also the man who mediated in the resolution of the conflicts in Mozambique in 1992, in the ceasefire in Burundi in 2003 after collaborating with Nelson Mandela or in Guatemala in the mid-nineties. "Every war ends with negotiation," he said in a recent interview.
Zuppi's agenda in Kiev is unclear. Nor if he will meet with President Zelensky. The Holy See said in its communique that it will listen "in depth to the Ukrainian authorities on possible ways to achieve a just peace and support gestures of humanity that contribute to easing tensions. You have to keep all channels open to stop the massacre, there is no other way," he explained to Corriere della Sera before knowing that the pope would choose him to execute the plan. Francis' idea, moreover, is that Zuppi be the only interlocutor between Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Trastevere UN
Born in Rome on October 11, 1955, Zuppi was ordained a priest in 1981 after passing through the seminary of Palestrina (near Rome). From 2000 to 2012 he was the general ecclesiastical assistant of the community of lay faithful of Sant'Egidio after meeting its founder, Andrea Riccardi. And that, precisely, is one of the assets that the Archbishop of Bologna has. Sant'Egidio, known as the Trastevere UN, has a long history of mediating conflicts around the world and is one of Francis' most vocal organizations to address problems related to migration, poverty and underdeveloped countries. In addition, the community itself is involved in an intense humanitarian task in Ukraine, where it has sent more than 1,000 tons of aid that it distributes through four centers. And it maintains a dense network of relations with the Moscow Patriarchate.
Zuppi's track record is long and relatively successful in these types of negotiations. Beyond Guatemala or Burundi, he also participated with the Irish Methodist Harold Good, who witnessed the disarmament of the IRA, in the act held at the City Hall of Bayonne on April 8, 2017, where the documents with the locations of ETA's weapons depots were delivered to the members of the International Verification Commission (IVC). The archbishop of Bologna had tried with Sant'Egidio a mediation between ETA and the Spanish government, which, however, failed because the terrorist group never came to trust.
The presence of Zuppi "was intended to be that of a moral witness, known for having participated in several processes of international reconciliation, and is connected to the work for peace of the Community of Sant'Egidio, which contributed to overcoming this painful page of Spanish history," explained the Catholic movement to the discomfort of a part of the Basque Church.
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