Pope Francis Reveals Secret ‘Peace Mission’ In Russia’s War In Ukraine


ABOARD PAPAL PLANE (AP) — Pope Francis announced Sunday that a secret “peacekeeping mission” was underway in Russia’s war in Ukraine, though he gave no details, and said the Vatican was ready to support the return of those kidnapped facilitate Ukrainian children to Russia during the war.

“I’m available for anything,” Francis said during an aerial press conference on his way home from Hungary. “There is a non-public mission in progress; When it’s public, I’ll talk about it.”

Pope Francis did not specify when asked if he discussed peace initiatives with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban or the representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Hungary during his talks in Budapest this weekend.

Deportation of Ukrainian children a concern since Russia invaded Ukraine last year. Francis said the Holy See has already helped broker some prisoner exchanges and will do “everything humanly possible” to reunite families.

“All human gestures help. Cruelty gestures don’t help,” Francis said.

The International Criminal Court in March issue an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Children’s Commissioner, who accuse them of war crimes for kidnapping children from Ukraine. Russia has denied any wrongdoing, claiming the children were moved for their safety.

Last week, Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal met with Pope Francis at the Vatican and asked him for help in returning Ukrainian children recorded after the Russian invasion.

Francis recalled that the Holy See had facilitated some prisoner exchanges by working through embassies and was open to Ukraine’s request to reunite Ukrainian children with their families.

The prisoner exchange “went well. I think that could also work well. It’s important,” he said of family reunification. “The Holy See is available for this because it is the right thing to do,” he added. “We must do everything humanly possible.”

The Associated Press’s religion coverage is supported by AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. AP is solely responsible for this content.

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