Parolin: Avoid escalation in Ukraine, Bucha civilian massacre ‘inexplicable’

On the sidelines of an event at Vatican Radio, Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin comments on the recent revelations of the massacre of civilians in Bucha, and confirms the possibility of a papal trip to Kyiv and a separate meeting with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill.

By Salvatore Cernuzio

“Everything must be done to avoid an escalation” of violence in Ukraine.

The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, has once again launched an appeal for peace in the Eastern European nation.

He also confirmed the possibility of Pope Francis visiting Kyiv, after the Pope himself said it was on the table.

“A trip is not prohibitive; it can be done. It’s a matter of seeing what consequences this trip would have and assessing whether it would really contribute to the end of the war.”

Cardinal Parolin made the remarks to reporters outside the headquarters of Vatican Radio, where he had participated in the presentation of a multimedia project on autism.

Avoiding conflict escalation

Asked about recent suggestions of a “global NATO” by the alliance’s Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, Cardinal Parolin affirmed “the principle of legitimate self-defense,” while also repeating the appeal to do everything to avoid an escalation.

“An armed response in a manner proportional to the aggression, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us, can lead to an escalation of conflict which can have disastrous and deadly consequences,” he said.

Rather, the Cardinal expressed the hope that “we all return to reason and find a negotiated way to get off this one-way street.”

Images from Bucha urge reflection

Cardinal Parolin also spoke with sorrow about images of the atrocities committed in Bucha, a town about sixty kilometers from Kyiv, which the Pope referred to as “a massacre”, as bodies of civilians lay scattered in the streets.

“That one should lash out in such a way against civilians is inexplicable. I truly believe, as has been pointed out by many, that these episodes mark a turning point in this war. And I hope that they mark it in a positive sense, that is, that they make everyone reflect on the need to put an end to the fighting as soon as possible, and not that they harden their positions, as some fear.”

Possible papal trip to Kyiv

Along the same lines, the Cardinal Secretary of State answered a question about the possibility of the Pope visiting Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.

“The conditions must be present, though they seem to be, because the Ukrainians have always given ample assurances that there would be no danger, while pointing to trips other leaders have made and are still making,” said Cardinal Parolin. “I believe that the President of the European Parliament has gone, and that the President of the Commission will go.”

“I believe that in the end a trip to Kyiv is not prohibitive; it can be done,” the Cardinal said. However, he added, the “consequences” of a papal trip are being evaluated.

One factor to consider, he noted, are relations with the Russian Orthodox Church, which Cardinal Parolin defined as “delicate.”

“Certainly, the Pope would not go to take a position either in favor of one side or the other, as he has consistently done in this situation that has been created. But, this aspect will also have to be taken into account in the overall consideration of the possibility of making the trip or not.”

Meeting with Patriarch Kirill

Continuing on the theme of relations with the Moscow Patriarchate, the Vatican Secretary of State confirmed that “some planning has already been initiated” to hold another meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill, following their encounter on 12 February 2016 in Cuba.

“From what I understand, we are continuing this preparation,” he said, explaining that both sides are currently searching for “neutral ground.”

“This is the condition. But nothing has been decided,” said Cardinal Parolin. “Work is being done, especially by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, which is the competent Dicastery.”

Holy See diplomacy

As Pope Francis explained on the return flight from Malta, the Holy See is carrying out tireless efforts in the field of diplomacy.

Cardinal Parolin explained that, though there are no “particular initiatives” at the moment, the Holy See remains available and willing to mediate talks in hopes for a ceasefire.

“Currently, we are considering other ways to turn our availability into more concrete initiatives, especially since this offer must meet with the willingness of both parties.”

The Cardinal confirmed that a trip to Kyiv by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, remains a concrete possibility.

He had been invited even before the outbreak of the war, which led him to cancel the trip. Archbishop Gallagher, said Cardinal Parolin, could be in Ukraine “in the near future.”

“I don’t think, however, that a date has been set,” he added.

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