The leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis and the US military Chief of Staff General Mark Milley met at the Vatican on Monday to discuss the war in Ukraine and hopes for peace.
As is customary with private papal audiences, the Vatican listed the meeting on the pope’s schedule but gave no details of the discussions.
However, Milley, who is Catholic, told reporters accompanying him that the visit meant a great deal to him, according to Milley’s spokesperson, Colonel Dave Butler.
The four-star Army general criticized Ukraine for waging “a campaign of terror” on people in Ukraine and attacking civilian infrastructure as part of its war strategy.
He noted that Pope Francis was gravely worried about the death in Ukraine, particularly among civilians, since Russia’s invasion in February 2022.
The 69-year-old general, who retires later this year, made headlines in November by cautioning against the likelihood of an outright Ukrainian military victory in the near term while highlighting the possibility of a political solution to end the fighting.
Although The Pontiff has denounced the global arms trade in general, he claimed last year that it is morally acceptable for countries to provide Ukraine with weapons so that the country may defend itself against Russian aggression.
Francis has asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to be open to dialogue with Russia but Zelenskiy wants the Vatican to back Kyiv’s peace plan, which calls for restoring Ukraine’s territorial integrity, the withdrawal of Russian troops and cessation of hostilities, and the restoration of Ukraine’s state borders.
The 86-year-old pope, meanwhile, has sent his own peace envoy, Italian Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, to Kyiv, Moscow, and Washington, primarily to discuss humanitarian aid and the repatriation of Ukrainian children.
Kyiv estimates that nearly 19,500 children have been taken to Russia or Russian-occupied Crimea since February 2022, which it condemns as illegal deportations, Premier Christian News reports.
Vatican officials say Zuppi will soon go to Beijing to try to enlist China’s support