ROME.- The Pope Francisco received today in audience the Ukrainian ambassador to the Holy See, Andri Yurash, with whom would have agreed on the date of a long-awaited visit to that country. This could occur in September, before his trip to Kazakhstan, scheduled for September 13-15, the diplomat let transcend, although there was no confirmation from the Vatican.
In a tweet in English, Yurash wrote that during their meeting Francis told him that he felt “very close to Ukraine” and that he wanted to “express his closeness with a visit.” “For many years and especially since the beginning of the war, Ukraine has been waiting for the Pope and I will be happy to receive him before his trip to Kazakhstan.”, he added, in a post in which he included photos of the meeting, which took place this morning at the Apostolic Palace.
In a second tweet, the Ukrainian ambassador defined “always inspiring” to speak with the Holy Father, “especially when there is the opportunity to discuss and promote issues that have been on the table for a long time, such as a visit by the Pope to Ukraine: Ukraine wants to meet and receive His Holiness as soon as possible, even before his trip to Kazakhstan.”, he insisted.
Since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, Francis was invited to travel to kyiv both by the president, Volodimir Zelensky, and by the mayor of the capital, Vitaly Klitschko. The Ukrainian authorities also asked the Pope mediate the conflict something that never happened since the other party in the conflict -Russia- was never willing.
In recent interviews, including at the press conference he gave a week ago upon returning from his “penitential” trip to Canada, Francis, 85, expressed his desire to travel to Ukraine, whose “martyred” population he remembers every Sunday in the Marian Angelus prayer.
But since he has had mobility problems since the beginning of the year due to a problem with a ligament in his right knee, he always made it clear that this visit would depend on “the leg”.
In this sense, yesterday morning Pope Francis – who has been using a wheelchair, a cane and even a walker to get around since May – had a medical visit at the Vatican health center, accompanied by the nurse Massimiliano Strappetti, your personal health assistant.
as far as he could tell THE NATION, although the Pope is progressing well –in fact, last Wednesday he arrived walking to the general audience-, his doctor recommended complete bed rest after the enormous effort he made on his six-day trip to Canada at the end of July. In fact, he strongly prescribed not to make a trip to Ukraine in August, that it would be quite complicated logistically since, as other heads of state and politicians did, it would involve a plane first and then a six-hour train ride from Lviv to kyiv.
For this reason, it is believed that the visit to Ukraine, a trip surely “sui generis” because it is a war zone, could happen in the first weeks of September, as the Ukrainian ambassador suggested, before the visit that the Pope will make to Kazakhstan, another former Soviet republic to which he will go from September 13 to 15 to attend a congress of religious leaders.
It was speculated that the Ukrainian diplomat might have asked the Pope to go on August 24, when the National Holiday of Ukraine is celebrated and the day of the country’s Independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 is commemorated. Beyond the fact that Francisco was recommended to rest in the coming weeks after a hard trip like the one in Canada – where even had to adjust to a time zone difference of 8 hours – that date, too symbolic, wouldn’t have worked either since the Vatican has always preferred to maintain an equidistant position in case a mediation could arise.
There was also a version that in Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan, the Pope could meet for the second time with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Patriarch of Moscow, Kirill, a staunch ally of Vladimir Putin, something that would not go over well in Ukraine.
But Vatican sources told THE NATION that it would be a simple greeting. In the meeting that Francis had yesterday with Kirill’s number two, Metropolitan Antonij of Volokolamsk, they both agreed that the congress of Kazakhstan in mid-September, where it is not even certain that Kirill will go, was not “neither the time nor the place to have a high-level meeting”, which would be the second after the Havana meeting of 2016, the first since the great schism of 1054.