Pope Francis has expressed his willingness to help facilitate the return of Ukrainian children who were taken to Russia during the war. During an airborne press conference on Sunday, the Pope said the Vatican had already assisted in mediating some prisoner exchanges and would do “all that is humanly possible” to reunite families. He stressed the importance of humane gestures and added that “gestures of cruelty don’t help”.
In addition, the Pope disclosed that a secret peace “mission” was underway but did not provide any details when asked about peace initiatives during his recent talks with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban or the representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Hungary. The Pope said, “There’s a mission that’s not public that’s underway; when it’s public I’ll talk about it”.
Last month, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s children’s commissioner, accusing them of war crimes for abducting children from Ukraine. Russia has denied any wrongdoing and claimed that the children were moved for their safety.
Last week, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal met with Pope Francis at the Vatican and requested his help in returning Ukrainian children taken following the Russian invasion. Shmyhal expressed his gratitude for the Pope’s willingness to help and said, “I asked His Holiness to help us return home Ukrainians, Ukrainian children who are detained, arrested, and criminally deported to Russia”.
Pope Francis recalled that the Holy See had facilitated some successful prisoner exchanges in the past, working through embassies, and was open to Ukraine’s request to reunite Ukrainian children with their families. He said, “The Holy See is available to do it because it’s the right thing…We have to do all that is humanly possible”.
The Pope’s commitment to helping reunite families and facilitate peace efforts has been praised by many. The situation involving Ukrainian children being taken to Russia during the war has been a source of great concern and controversy, and the Pope’s intervention could potentially help bring about a resolution to the issue.