Pope Francis Meets Ukrainian Ambassador over Possible Kyiv Trip

Pope Francis met on Saturday morning with Ukraine’s ambassador to the Holy See, Andrii Yurash, to discuss a possible visit to Kyiv.

The Vatican offered no further details on the meeting, but the diplomat said the trip could take place before the pontiff’s trip to Kazakhstan, scheduled for September 13-15.

Ukraine has waited for the pope for many years, especially since the start of the war, and “will be happy to greet him before his trip to Kazakhstan,” Yurash wrote on Twitter.

According to Yurash, the pope said, “I am very close to Ukraine and want to express this closeness thought my visit to Ukraine.”

Recently, the Vatican’s foreign minister, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, said the pontiff would receive the Ukrainian ambassador in early August to talk about the trip.

“A possible visit could be in August or later in September or October. It’s going to depend on the Pope, I’m also hoping to know things better,” Gallagher said in late July.

According to Gallagher, the visit would be made by train, either from Poland or Romania. Francis has reiterated on several occasions his desire to go to Ukraine, but also said he would first like to travel to Russia to meet with President Vladimir Putin.

The Latin Archbishop of Lviv, Ukraine, said, however, it would be a “disaster” for Pope Francis to visit Russia before going to Ukraine, and if that should that happen, Ukrainian borders might even be closed to the pope.

“Not only the Greek Catholic faithful, but also we do not agree with all the gestures of the Holy Father towards Russia; but perhaps we do not understand his intentions and policy well,” said Archbishop Mieczysław Mokrzycki, who leads the Latin rite community in Ukraine, which numbers about 1.5 million.

“Let’s hope that the pope has good intentions and, with his way of acting, will soon bring peace to Ukraine,” Mokrzycki said.

In a July interview with the Jesuit-run America magazine, Archbishop Gallagher said that the pope “wants to and he feels he should go to Ukraine.”

“I think the pope’s main priority at this moment is to make the visit to Ukraine, meet with the Ukrainian authorities, meet with the Ukrainian people and with the Ukrainian Catholic Church,” he said.

Last Friday, Francis had an audience with Metropolitan Antonij of Volokolamsk, a representative of Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church and a close ally of Vladimir Putin, amid rumors of a possible meeting between Kirill and Francis in September in Kazakhstan.

Both leaders are expected to attend the VII Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in the Kazakh capital of Nur-Sultan, slated for September 13-15.