Pope Reveals He Is Involved In Secret Ukraine Peace Mission 

Pope Reveals He Is Involved In Secret Ukraine Peace Mission 

Pope Francis has revealed that Catholic leaders are involved in a secret peace mission to try to end the war in Ukraine and help repatriate Ukrainian children taken by Russia.

The 86-year-old pope mentioned the operation for the first time Sunday but was tight-lipped about the specifics.

“There is a mission in course now but it is not yet public. When it is public, I will reveal it,” the pope told reporters as he flew back to Vatican City following a three-day trip to Hungary, where he greeted some of the millions of Ukrainian refugees who had fled to the bordering country.

“I think that peace is always made by opening channels. You can never achieve peace through closure. This is not easy.”

Francis said he had discussed the mission with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Archbishop Hilarion, a representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Budapest.

Orban has opposed sending aid to Ukraine and sanctioning Russia for its unprovoked invasion, in contrast to other leaders of NATO and European Union countries. The populist leader had instead called for direct US involvement to bring the war to an end.

“In these meetings, we did not just talk about Little Red Riding Hood. We spoke of all these things. Everyone is interested in the road to peace,” the pontiff said.

Francis has used his pulpit to regularly call for peace in Ukraine since the start of Russia’s blitz last February but waited for months to blame Moscow in the hopes of preserving the church’s potential role as an impartial arbiter in peace talks.

His offers to act as a peace broker between Moscow and the former Soviet territory were discussed at the Vatican last week with Ukraine Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, who spoke of a “peace formula” introduced by President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Shmyhal also asked the pope for help repatriating the roughly 19,500 children who were taken to Russia or Crimea since the invasion.

“The Holy See is willing to do this (help repatriate the children) because it is the right thing,” Francis said on the plane. “All human gestures help but gestures of cruelty don’t help. We have to do all that is humanly possible.”

Francis also told reporters he was responding well to treatment for a “strong and acute pneumonia in the lower section of the lung” for which he was hospitalized in March.

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