Pope Francis plans a visit to Ukraine’s capital Kyiv

On March 23, Volodymyr Zelensky told Italian parliamentarians via video conference that he had spoken to the pope and also invited him to Ukraine.

Pope Francis delivers his speech in the Grand Council Hall of the Grand Master’s Palace in Valletta, Malta, April 2, 2022. (AP)

Valletta: Pope Francis said on Saturday he was still planning to visit the Ukrainian capital of kyiv following invitations from the mayor and the president.

On board the papal plane en route to Malta for a two-day official visit, a reporter asked Francis if a visit to the city was still possible.

“Yes, it’s on the table,” replied the 85-year-old.

In a March 8 letter to the Pope written in English, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said Francis’ presence in the capital “is essential to save lives and pave the way for peace in our city, our country. and beyond”.

“We ask you, as a spiritual leader, to show your compassion, to stand with the people of Ukraine by jointly spreading the call for peace,” Klitschko wrote.

On March 23, President Volodymyr Zelensky told Italian parliamentarians by videoconference that he had spoken to the pope and also invited him to Ukraine.

In the sixth week of the conflict, Ukraine said it was beginning to regain territory north of kyiv previously held by Russian forces, but the capital is still the target of Russian airstrikes and parts of the country have been reduced to rubble.

Francis has repeatedly spoken out against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and, again on Saturday in his maiden speech in Malta, he denounced warmongering, in a veiled reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Once again a potentate, sadly caught up in anachronistic claims of nationalist interests, is provoking and fomenting conflict…” he told Maltese dignitaries.

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Christi C. Elwood