Pope Francis considers visiting Kyiv after Zelensky, Klitschko invite

Pope Francis (C) aboard a ferry-boat leaving Valletta, Malta, en route to Gozo island on Saturday said earlier in the day he was considering a separate trip to Kyiv. Photo by Andreas Solaro/EPA-EFE
Pope Francis (C) aboard a ferry-boat leaving Valletta, Malta, en route to Gozo island on Saturday said earlier in the day he was considering a separate trip to Kyiv. Photo by Andreas Solaro/EPA-EFE

April 2 (UPI) -- Pope Francis said Saturday he is considering visiting Kyiv after receiving an invitation from the country's president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and the city's mayor, Vitali Klitschko.

Zelensky and Klitschko invited the pope to the Ukrainian capital earlier this month.


The Vatican confirmed receipt of the invitation at the time, but did not mention any travel plans. Still, Francis told a reporter on the plane taking him from Rome to Malta on Saturday that "yes, it is on the table," The Guardian reported.

Francis, 85, traveled to Malta for a two-day visit aimed at calling attention to the migration crisis that has been worsened by the Russia-Ukraine war. He used an elevator for to descend from the ITA aircraft on to the tarmac for the first time, according to The Guardian. The pope, who has had a painful knee inflammation for months, also went on a tour of the island's capital, Valletta.

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The war in Ukraine has displaced more than 10.5 million people, equivalent to around a quarter of the country's population, including displacements within Ukraine and abroad, and about 13 million urgently need humanitarian assistance, according to estimates.


"The growing migration emergency -- here we can think of the refugees from war-torn Ukraine -- calls for a broad-based and shared response," Francis said Saturday in a series of Twitter posts about his apostolic journey in Malta. "Some countries cannot respond to the entire problem, while others remain indifferent onlookers!"

"Saint Paul unexpectedly came to #Malta's coast and found ready assistance," he added. "He was a man in need of assistance. In the name of the Gospel that he lived and preached, let us open our hearts and rediscover the beauty of serving our neighbors in need!"

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Other Ukrainian religious leaders, including the major archbishop Sviatoslav of Shevchuk of Ukraine's Byzantine Rite Catholic church and Ukraine's ambassador to the Vatican, Andriy Yurash, have supported the invitation from the political leaders, according to The Guardian.

If the pope accepts the invitation, it would be the highest profile visit of a world figure since the Russia's invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24.

On Thursday, Malta's Roberta Metsola, the youngest person elected European parliament president earlier this year, met Zelensky in Kyiv and delivered a message that the European Union would help rebuild the country from the war.


In mid-March, three leaders of European Union nations arrived in Kyiv to show support for Ukraine and peace talks, including Czech Republic Prime Minister Petr Fiala, Slovenian President Janez Jansa and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

Francis previously said "the moment has come to abolish war" amid the invasion of Ukraine.

"Each day of war worsens the situation for everyone," he said during his weekly Angelus address. "May weapons be silenced. May peace be seriously pursued."

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