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Cardinal Zuppi to lead still-secret Ukraine mission

Cardinal Matteo Maria Zuppi


I.Media - published on 05/22/23

Cardinal Zuppi is a member of the Community of Sant'Egidio and has an impressive background mediating in major situations of war and conflict.

Pope Francis is entrusting Cardinal Matteo Maria Zuppi, archbishop of Bologna, with the task of “leading a mission, in agreement with the Secretariat of State, to contribute to the easing of tensions in the conflict in Ukraine.” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni made this announcement on May 20, 2023. However, the Holy See has not revealed the how or when this diplomatic operation will take place, as it is “still being studied.”

A still-mysterious mission

On the plane returning from his trip to Hungary on April 30, Pope Francis told journalists that the Holy See was working on a “mission” for peace in Ukraine. But he also refused to reveal the nature of the operation. “I will say it when it is public,” he promised.

It had previously been rumored that Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, prefect of the Dicastery for Eastern Churches, would be involved, but the dicastery denied it. While the nature of the operation is still unknown, the choice of Cardinal Zuppi is an indication. Now the president of the Italian bishops’ conference, he has been a member of the Community of Sant’Egidio since its beginnings in the Trastevere district of Rome.

His background as a mediator

Within this lay Catholic association committed to ecumenical dialogue and peace work, Cardinal Zuppi, then a simple priest, led an important mediation process in 1992 in Mozambique, then torn by a civil war. Subsequently, he mediated for Sant’Egidio in Tanzania, Cuba, Kosovo, and in the Basque Country in 2017, when members of ETA decided to make him a “moral witness” when they laid down their arms. 

The Sant’Egidio community has taken on significant importance under Francis’ pontificate, sometimes being described as a diplomatic armparallel to that of the Secretariat of State. According to Reuters, the 67-year-old Italian cardinal’s mission is to meet separately with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenski and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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