The Pope’s Envoy, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, President of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, concluded his mission in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, 19 July. The Holy See released a statement saying that Zuppi traveled to Washington on a three-day visit accompanied by an official of the Vatican Secretariat of State, to meet with United States President Joe Biden, thus continuing the peace mission Pope Francis had entrusted to him.
Upon arriving on Monday evening, 17 July, Cardinal Zuppi met with Archbishop Timothy Broglio, President of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (usccb), at the Apostolic Nunciature. They exchanged thoughts on the war in Ukraine and on the Holy See’s initiatives to help victims and promote peace.
The following morning, at the Rayburn House Office Building, the Vatican delegation, joined by Apostolic Nuncio, Cardinal-elect Christophe Pierre, and Monsignor Séamus Patrick Horgan, Counsellor of the Apostolic Nunciature, met with some members of the United States Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission), to whom he presented the nature and development of the mission entrusted to them by the Pope. They reflected together on the way in which said mission could be rendered more effective.
In the afternoon later that day, the pontifical envoy and the other members of the delegation went to the White House, where they were greeted by President Biden. Cardinal Zuppi gave him a letter from the Holy Father underlining the Pope’s sorrow for the suffering caused by the war. The meeting, which began a little after 5 p.m., lasted for over an hour, and took place in an atmosphere of great cordiality and mutual listening. During the conversation, readiness was assured to support humanitarian initiatives, especially those dedicated to children and the most vulnerable people, to respond to urgent needs and to foster paths of peace. The morning of 19 July the Vatican delegation participated in the Senate Prayer Breakfast at the U.S. Congress House, during which Cardinal Zuppi had the opportunity to brief participants on his meetings during the various stages of his peace mission. At this event, appreciation was expressed for the Holy See’s efforts, and the responsibility of every individual to work for peace was emphasized.
“The meeting with the President was quite good”, Apostolic Nuncio Pierre told Vatican News in an interview. “The Cardinal insisted a lot about the fact that we want to contribute, but we have not the potential to resolve immediately all the problems. We know their complexity. So he insisted about the humanitarian dimension and the desire of the Holy Father to contribute in every possible way, but in particular, to the situation of the children, the children who have been transported to Russia from Ukraine”. The Cardinal-elect noted the Holy See’s responsibility to take action, since it is part of the world. “The consequences of the war are terrible for the people”, he said. “I speak about the refugees, the people who have died, the trauma, especially in particular the question of the children”. He also explained that “in the diplomatic world, we have to work step by step”, adding that “one of these steps is precisely what the Cardinal [Zuppi] is doing, without the pretension to resolve everything. And we have a lot of hope for the future”, he concluded.
In a separate interview with Vatican News, Archbishop Timothy Broglio also commented on the Holy See’s initiative and on Cardinal Zuppi’s mission. He said the meeting with President Biden was “not mediation, but an opportunity to see what the Holy See could do to help in an eventual end of hostilities in Ukraine”. Expressing concern for a potential escalation, Archbishop Broglio stressed the importance of the statement from the Committee on International Justice and Peace, which “decried the use of cluster bombs, aligning ourselves with the position that the Holy See has taken about those kinds of weapons which are […] indiscriminate in the victims”. The Archbishop also shared that seeing the destruction and suffering taking place in Ukraine, “Catholics in the United States tried to respond the best way we could”, which he said was through prayer and humanitarian assistance.