In an interview with La Stampa widely covering the situation in different parts of the world and diplomatic efforts by the Holy See, Archbishop Gallagher also responded to several questions related to seeking peace in Ukraine in the context of Russian aggression.
Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States can be said to be Pope Francis’ partner in carrying out the Vatican’s Foreign Policy.
The interview was granted to the outlet shortly before Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to Rome and meeting with Pope Francis. At this meeting, Zelensky graciously but firmly turned down the Vatican’s offer for mediation, outlining Ukraine’s 10 ironclad preconditions for talks.
Is dialogue possible?
The Vatican supports Ukraine’s right to self-defense and its territorial integrity (Zelensky’s primary premise for entering negotiations) while Russia makes a ceasefire and meeting dependent on prior annexation of parts of Ukraine, the journalist recalled, asking the archbishop: “Do you see a way out?”
“Well yes, but it is problematic,” he noted. “The diplomatic process of the Holy See consists a little bit in juggling the agenda. Like a juggler, we must keep the ball in the air — you don’t want the ball falling on the ground. We need to keep the idea of a peace process alive. We recognize the difficulties, we understand the sufferings of the Ukrainian people and the stance of their leaders. But at the same time, as President Zelensky said long ago, ‘This war will end at the negotiating table.’ So, whatever we can do — our efforts are designed to try and bring about the arrival at that negotiating table as soon as possible.”
Doors are open for all parties
True to time proven tradition, the Vatican always keeps its doors open for dialogue with both sides, the journalist stressed, recalling that Pope Francis would like to visit both Kyiv and Moscow. “President Zelensky has invited him but no invitation is forthcoming from Putin. Will that pose a problem?” she asked.
“I don’t know what the Holy Father has decided, whether he wants to visit just one of the capitals…? He has always said he wanted to go to both. And I think the matter is still wishy. We’ll just have to see. If it seems right to go to Ukraine, fine. If it seems impossible to go to Moscow, then that will have to be accepted,” the archbishop answered.
Asked to elaborate on Italian Cardinal Matteo Zuppi’s miossion, the archbishop said:
“I would like to take this opportunity to confirm that the Pope has been contemplating peace in the Ukraine from the very beginning, since the 24th of February 2022, continuously considering ideas and proposals that could contribute to easing of tensions in the Ukraine conflict and to setting in motion paths for a just peace. Now, as Director Matteo Bruni has said, the timing for such a mission and its modalities are currently being studied. At the same time, we hope and pray for such a delicate mission, knowing that speed and timing are also very important!”
Everyone must contribute
Iran and China’s relations with Russia are considered quite problematic, the journalist emphasized. Iran, the main sponsor of international terrorism and a threat to the entire world, now supplies Russia with arms. Both countries are major human rights violators. Yet China wants to be a mediator between Ukraine and Russia. “What do you think of these relations?” she asked.
“The first consideration, as we were saying, is the Holy See’s position that it is incumbent upon any nation, any actor to do what they can to bring an end to this war. We encourage all to do that. So, if China can make a contribution, if they have channels of access to Moscow and also to Kyiv, we could only be satisfied with that. As to Iran — we have always said that Iran, in its dealings with the international community must act in a responsible way. Particularly in the Middle East area – we have always believed that Iran is a very important player in Lebanon, in Syria, and in Iraq. Obviously, we would like to see them make a positive contribution to this situation. Maybe that means that they’ve got to review – change – their policies. In our relations with them, we would be encouraging that. We have full diplomatic relations with Iran. Christians are not without challenges in Iran, and we continue to work with the authorities to improve the condition of life of Catholics in Iran. Sometimes there is some success, other times there is less, but we remain engaged with the Iranian authorities.”