Von der Leyen and Pope Francis will meet at the Vatican with the war in Ukraine as a backdrop

The President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen (ITALIAN PRESIDENCY PRESS OFFICE/)

Pope Francis will receive this Friday at the Apostolic Palace of the Vatican the president of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, a visit that is part of a trip to Rome by the senior European official that will also include bilateral meetings with the Italian president, Sergio Mattarella, and with the Italian Prime Minister, Mario Draghi.

The war in Ukraine will be present as a backdrop at these meetings in a context of urgency to avoid a global food crisis, due to lack of wheat supply. In addition, Francis and the Vatican have questioned the shipment of weapons and the increase in military spending in EU countries. The meeting with the Pontiff will take place in the morning, as confirmed by official Vatican sources.

The Pontiff has made several gestures of a spiritual nature in recent months to call for an end to the war in Ukraine. At the end of May, he prayed a rosary to ask “the end of the war, which for decades has spread to various parts of the world, and which has now also invaded the European continent” in a spiritual act in which several Ukrainian families participated.

“Grant us the great gift of peace”then asked the Pope before the marble sculpture of the Virgin Mary in the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, which is the materialization of the litany of the rosary for peace, and before which Benedict XV also begged for the end of the First World War.

Pope Francis
Pope Francis (REMO CASILLI/)

In this Sunday’s Angelus, Francis lamented that 100 days have passed since the irruption by Russian troops in the country. Thus, he urged that the international community listen to “the desperate cry of the people who suffer, that life be respected and that the macabre destruction be put to an end.” Therefore, he appealed to political leaders to stop the war: “Do not lead humanity to ruin.”

In addition, in a meeting with some Ukrainian children forced to flee their homes, he reiterated his intention to travel to the country at war, although he clarified that he had to find “the right moment.” To assess the risks of the trip, he will meet this week at the Vatican with representatives of the Government of Volodimir Zelensky, although the Vatican has not confirmed when.

Francis has also expressed his willingness to travel to Moscow and meet there with Russian President Vladimir Putin, if this would help stop the invasion of Ukraine.

The pope and Von der Leyen met for the first time in the Vatican just over a year ago, in May 2021, and on that occasion they agreed on the need for an equitable distribution of vaccines throughout the world in a context of pandemic.

Thus, on that occasion they addressed issues of common interest, such as the social consequences of the pandemic, migration and climate change, as well as recent events in the Middle East”.

(With information from Europe Press)


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