Pope Francis welcomed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the Vatican May 13. In the morning, Zelensky met with Italian authorities followed by a meeting with Pope Francis in the afternoon.
It was a highly anticipated meeting after the pope's words on his return flight from Hungary at the end of April. During his in-flight press conference, he announced that the Vatican was pursuing a peace mission in Ukraine.
"There is a mission going on now, but it is not yet public," the pope said. "Let's see how ... when it becomes public, I will speak about it."
Upon his arrival in Rome, Zelensky described this visit to Italy and the Vatican as an important one. And Pope Francis responded soon after. On May 13, the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima, he asked the Mother of Jesus to help "build ways of understanding and paths of dialogue towards peace."
The meeting lasted about 40 minutes. There were many moving gifts, such as this image of Our Lady drawn on a bulletproof plate, which the Ukrainian president gave to the pope. After shaking hands, Pope Francis did not fail to make his traditional request at the end of his meetings: "God bless you. Thank you so much. And pray for me, don't forget."
The details of the Vatican peace mission and whether Zelensky's visit was related to it were not disclosed after the meeting. But afterwards, the Ukrainian president shared details about the topics he discussed with the pope. And his message was full of gratitude to Pope Francis.
Zelensky invited the pope to join his proposal of peace for Ukraine and to condemn the Russian crimes committed on its territory. He said that aggressor and victim should not be treated alike. The president also thanked the pope for his concern for the Ukrainian people and spoke about the thousands of Ukrainian children deported to Russia.
For Pope Francis to join Zelensky's peace plan would be bold as Russia has refused to accept it. Joining it could mean the Vatican would lose its neutral position and the status as a potential mediator.