Since the beginning of his visit to Portugal, the nunciature in Lisbon has become the place for meetings as discreet as they are important. The day after his arrival in the Portuguese capital, Pope Francis met, early Thursday morning, August 3, a group of Ukrainian pilgrims who had come to participate in World Youth Days (WYD).
Fifteen of them, accompanied by an adviser from the Ukrainian government, spoke with François for half an hour. During this meeting, of which few details have leaked out, these young people from Ukraine were able to testify to their journey. At the beginning of the meeting, the young people offered Francis a sheaf of wheat, while the pope launched an appeal on Sunday July 30 in favor of the renewal of the Russian-Ukrainian agreement on wheat.
The pope expressed his “closeness” to them, according to the Vatican, expressing his “pain” and his “prayer”, before all recite together the prayer of the Our Father “for the intention of martyred Ukraine”. . They were also accompanied by a priest responsible for youth ministry within the Greek Catholic Church.
Highly sensitive subject
Since his arrival in Lisbon, Wednesday, August 2, for a 5-day trip during which he must participate in WYD but also visit the Marian shrine of Fatima, the conflict between Ukraine and Russia is omnipresent in the speeches of the pope. . At the cultural center of Belém, a few hours after his arrival in Lisbon, Francis had called on Europe to find “creative ways” to find peace on the continent.
If the pope insisted that this interview be organized behind closed doors, it is because ongoing Vatican diplomacy is aware of the extreme sensitivity of this type of initiative. Above all, the highest officials of the Holy See seem to observe the greatest caution regarding a possible initiative during which Russians and Ukrainians could meet at WYD.
“The previous experiences have created great tensions”, explains a Vatican source, who stresses that “the time has not come” for such a meeting. An allusion to the attempts of Pope Francis, in particular during the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday 2023, to bring together Russians and Ukrainians during part of the ceremony, and which had provoked strong protests from representatives of the Ukrainian government.