He new Russian ambassador to the Vatican met on Monday with the Pope Francisco for a protocol visit, while signs emerged that the Vatican’s peace envoy to Ukraine could soon embark on a second mission to Moscow.
The Vatican said the ambassador Ivan Soltanovsky He was presenting his credentials to Francis, marking the official start of his mandate. His entourage was seen leaving the Russian embassy on Monday morning, bound for the Vatican, and returning about two hours later.
Soltanovsky replaces Ambassador Alexander Avdeev, whom Francis met on February 25, 2022 in an extraordinary in-person papal visit to the embassy, the day after Moscow forces invaded Ukraine.
The appointment for the presentation of credentials comes after the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrovsaid in recent days that Moscow was willing to meet again with Francis’ envoy for peace in Ukraine, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, a veteran of the Catholic Church’s peace initiatives.
“The Vatican continues its efforts. The papal envoy will return (to Russia) soon,” Lavrov said on September 15 at a roundtable on Ukraine.
Since his appointment in May, Zuppi has visited kyiv, Moscow, Washington and Beijing. At first, his mandate appeared to be limited to measures to try to reunite Ukrainian children taken to Russia after the invasion of Moscow. But during the meeting he held last week in Beijing with Li Hui, China’s special representative for Eurasian affairs, there was also talk of the resumption of grain exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, which had been paralyzed.
Upon his return to Italy, Zuppi stated that the Beijing meeting represented an important exchange of ideas and was optimistic about Lavrov’s “positive” openness to a second visit. During her first trip to Moscow in June, Zuppi met with Russian Children’s Rights Minister Maria Lvova-Belova and an advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In late March, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against Lvova-Belova and Putin, accusing them of kidnapping children from Ukraine. Russian authorities have denied that forced adoptions have taken place, saying that some Ukrainian children are in foster care.
Zuppi declared this weekend to the TG2000 radio station of the Italian Episcopal Conference that Lavrov’s opening to a second meeting was “important because peace is made through dialogue and finding the possible and necessary spaces. It is undoubtedly a positive statement and goes in the direction expected by Pope Francis.”
Francis has followed the Holy See’s tradition of neutrality in conflicts by trying to keep open avenues of dialogue with both Ukraine and Russia. His stance, and his admiration for Russia’s imperial past and culture, has at times angered Ukraine, especially its Greek Catholic congregation.
(With information from AP)