Pope: Vatican involved in secret Ukraine peace mission

STORY: The Vatican is involved in a peace mission to try to end the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

That’s what Pope Francis told reporters on Sunday during a flight home after a visit to Hungary.

He added, they were also ready to help repatriate Ukrainian children taken to Russia or Russian-occupied land, but gave no further details.

“I am willing to do everything that has to be done. There is a mission in course now but it is not yet public.”

The pope said he spoke in Budapest about Ukraine’s situation with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and a representative of the Russian Orthodox Church, and said “everyone is interested in the road to peace.”

“I believe that peace is always made by opening channels, you can never achieve peace by closing them. I invite everyone to open relationships, channels of friendship, and this is not easy.”

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Francis has repeatedly expressed a wish to act as a broker between Kyiv and Moscow – so far to no avail.

The pope on Thursday met Ukraine Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal at the Vatican, who said they discussed a "peace formula" put forward by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Shmyhal said he had also invited the pontiff to visit Kyiv.

Francis has said previously he wants to visit Kyiv, but also Moscow for a peace mission.

The 86-year-old, who appeared in relatively good health during the trip, also spoke of his hospitalisation in late March.

Francis said it was “strong and acute pneumonia in the lower section of the lung”, and thanked God that his body responded well to the treatment.

The pope said there were no changes to plans to go to Lisbon in August for an international youth gathering, and then separately to Marseilles and Mongolia.