The Francis-Milley meeting. On Monday, the Pope had a private audience with United States General Mark Milley, outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Their encounter centred on the ongoing Russian war against Ukraine (including the Western countries’ material support to Kyiv’s counteroffensive) as well as the situation in Africa, with both the Holy See and Washington keeping an eye on the ongoing crises and their knock-on effects.
- The Catholic general, who is on a trip to visit several European countries, later told reporters that the visit meant a great deal to him and remarked on the depth of the conversation and the remarks made to him.
- He then highlighted that the Pope was deeply concerned about the loss of life in Ukraine, especially of civilians, since Russia’s invasion, and extremely clear-eyed about international developments, including in the African continent (such as the recent coup in Niger, presumably).
The Holy See’s road to peace in Ukraine. The Vatican is currently carrying out its peace-building mission in Ukraine, headed by Italian Cardinal Matteo Zuppi. On Sunday, he had called on Europe to “try in every way to help initiatives for peace” while remarking in an interview with Il Sussidiario that the differing positions “must not make us lose the clarity of responsibility, of the aggressor and the victim” and eliciting “a just and secure peace not with weapons but with dialogue.”
- Over the past months, as part of his mission, Mr Zuppi has travelled to both Kyiv and Moscow, as well as Washington, for a meeting with President Joe Biden, and has expressed an intention to head to Beijing as well.
- On his part, General Milley is a centrepiece of the US’ strategy of military support to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and he recently reiterated that their counteroffensive it’s “going to be long. It’s going be hard. It’s going to be bloody.”
Those are not colliding worlds. As veteran Vatican watcher Riccardo Cristiano remarked on our sister website, the positions embodied by the two institutions – the Holy See and the United States military – are far from being in contradiction. General Milley was “expressing the line of those who see negotiation as possible precisely because of the choices he has managed so far. And militarily speaking, it makes sense.”
- On the other hand, the Church’s global status makes it a more neutral actor. Still, “Cardinal Zuppi’s explicit request for a greater European commitment to peace could bring out the meaning of General Milley’s recent statements: that is, not to confuse peace with surrender and not to confuse wishes with reality.”