Letter #67, 2022, Wednesday, April 13: Pope’s call for an Easter truce and related news…

    We are now approaching the end of Lent, and Easter Sunday.

    Many sorrowful events are occurring, and seem destined to continue occurring in the days ahead.

    Yet, our hope is in the Lord, and in his triumph over sin and death, on the first Easter, almost 2,000 years ago.


    Pope Francis on Palm Sunday, April 10, in Rome made a dramatic call for a ceasefire in the Russia-Ukraine war for Easter, which comes this Sunday, April 17, in the Western calendar, but next Sunday, April 24, in the Eastern Calendar, observed by the Orthodox in both Russia and Ukraine.

    It is not clear whether anyone will listen to the Pope’s call for an Easter ceasefire, or whether it will have any effect.

    Meanwhile, the bloody conflict continues, and risks of a wider war are spreading.


    Here are some of the things that are happening in the war:

    1) Russia has changed generals (Russian president Vladimir Putin has just sent the general who was in charge of the Russian campaign in Syria, Alexander Dvornikov, to take overall charge of the Ukraine campaign; at least five Russian generals have reportedly already been killed in the war (link).

    According to Lt. Col. Fares al-Bayoush, a Syrian army defector — while the situation in Syria is different than in Ukraine because the Russian military in Syria was fighting insurgent groups and not Ukraine’s professional army — Dvornikov may begin a similar “scorched-earth” strategy. “I expected him to use the scorched earth policy that was used in Syria,” al-Bayoush said, referring to Russian-backed attacks in Syria in which cities and towns were put under long sieges while being subjected to intense bombardment that left many people dead and caused wide destruction to infrastructure and residential areas. “He has very good experience in this policy.” (link)

    2) the West reportedly continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars of weapons into Ukraine, evidently over the western border. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg of Norway said after an April 7 NATO meeting that there was a strong will among the member states to continue supporting Ukraine with arms shipments. “A clear message surfaced at the meeting today – the Allies should do more and are ready to do more. They want to provide more equipment, and they recognize the importance of acting quickly,” Stoltenberg said at the press conference after the meeting. (link)

    3) the leaders of countries previously unaligned, like Finland and Sweden, are now openly talking about applying to join NATO — something Russia fiercely opposes. (link)

    These developments suggest the war is not ending, but intensifying.

    Rather than finding some basis for a negotiated agreement to end the conflict, the parties seem to be stiffening their positions.

    So the terrible bloodshed is continuing, with thousand of Ukrainian civilians, and also thousands of both Russian and Ukrainian soldiers, killed or wounded.

    This means bitter tears for thousands, when news of the death or mutilation of loved ones reaches them.

    So the call of Pope Francis for a period of ceasefire, in this context, is a heartfelt call to spare lives that will inevitably be lost in the coming days as the war rages.

    But it is a call that seems unlikely to be heard.


    Below are excerpts from various reports which may help to provide some contact for understanding what is happening in the war:

    1) Pope Francis calls for truce for Easter; in three stories:

    — a) the call for a truce in his homily) and

    — b) more about the Palm Sunday Mass in which he delivered the homily, and

    —c) the actual complete text of the Pope’s homily.

    2) Russian Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev speaks about a possible Pope Francis-Patriarch Kirill meeting in the Middle East during a Russian religious television program

    3) more news about a new front in Eastern Ukraine, in Transnistria, in the Russia-Ukraine war

    4) other Vatican diplomatic concerns, especially for the situation in China, which continues to trade with Russia and not to observe the Western sanctions called for by Washington (interview with the Holy See’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin). —RM

    (1) Pope Francis calls for truce for Easter

    Pope Francis Calls for an ‘Easter Truce’ in Ukraine on Palm Sunday 2022 (link)

    The Holy Father urged ‘a truce that will lead to peace, through real negotiation that is even disposed to some sacrifice for the good of the people,’ adding ‘Christ bore his cross to free us from the dominion of evil. He died so that life, love, peace might reign.’

    By Hannah Brockhaus/CNA

    April 10, 2022

    Pope Francis said on Palm Sunday 2022 that nothing is impossible for God, who has the power to end the war in Ukraine, even if it looks like the end is not near. He also urged the laying down of weapons for a permanent “Easter truce.”

    At the end of Mass in St. Peter’s Square on April 10, the Pope said: “Nothing is impossible for God. He can even bring an end to a war whose end is not in sight, a war that daily places before our eyes heinous massacres and atrocious cruelty committed against defenseless civilians. Let us pray about this.”

    Francis’ comments about war were made at the end of Mass, right before he led an estimated 65,000 people in praying the Angelus.

    “In a moment, we will turn to the Blessed Mother with the Angelus prayer. It was the Angel of the Lord himself who said to Mary in the Annunciation: ‘Nothing is impossible for God,’” the Pope said.

    Pope Francis reminded pilgrims that Easter is coming soon. “We are preparing to celebrate the victory of the Lord Jesus Christ over sin and death — over sin and death — not over someone and against someone else.”

    “Let the weapons be put down,” he urged. “Let the Easter truce begin.”

    “But not to provide more weapons and pick up the combat again — no — a truce that will lead to peace, through real negotiation that is even disposed to some sacrifice for the good of the people. In fact, what victory is there in planting a flag on a pile of rubble?” he said.

    “But today, there is a war. Why does one want to win like this, according to the way of the world?” Francis continued. “This is only the way to lose. Why not allow Him to win? Christ bore his cross to free us from the dominion of evil. He died so that life, love, peace might reign.”

    “Nothing is impossible for God. We entrust this to him through the intercession of the Virgin Mary.”

    After the prayer and the final blessing of Mass, Pope Francis greeted the crowds as he took a spin around St. Peter’s Square in the popemobile.

    Palm Sunday 2022 Mass was Francis’ first public liturgy in St. Peter’s Square in more than two years, since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    In his homily, he said “Christ is crucified yet another time” in the folly of war.

Pope Francis holds palm fronds as he celebrates Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 10, 2022. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

    1b) more about the Palm Sunday Mass

    Pope Francis on Palm Sunday 2022: In War, Christ Is Crucified Again (link)

    Jesus, by forgiving his enemies, demonstrated one of his most demanding commandments: that we love our enemies, Pope Francis continued.

    By Hannah Brockhaus/CNA

    April 10, 2022

    At Mass on Palm Sunday 2022, Pope Francis condemned the violence of war and called Christians to forgive their enemies, just as Christ did while he was dying, hanging on the cross.

    “When we resort to violence, we show that we no longer know anything about God, who is our Father, or even about others, who are our brothers and sisters,” the Pope said on April 10.

    “We see this in the folly of war, where Christ is crucified yet another time,” the Pope underlined. “Christ is once more nailed to the cross in mothers who mourn the unjust death of husbands and sons. He is crucified in refugees who flee from bombs with children in their arms. He is crucified in the elderly left alone to die; in young people deprived of a future; in soldiers sent to kill their brothers and sisters.”

    “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. Many people heard these extraordinary words, but only one person responded to them. He was a criminal, crucified next to Jesus,” the Pope said in St. Peter’s Square.

    For the first time in two years, since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pope Francis celebrated a public liturgy in St. Peter’s Square.

    Palm Sunday 2022 marked the beginning of Holy Week and a return to the customary large public celebrations of the Triduum and Easter at the Vatican after the coronavirus.

    The Pope’s Palm Sunday Mass began with a large procession of deacons, priests, bishops, cardinals and laypeople carrying palms into St. Peter’s Square.

    The procession circled the obelisk, before the eyes of hundreds of participants, where olive tree branches, palm fronds and the large, weaved palms called parmureli carried by cardinals, were blessed by Pope Francis.

    Unlike previous years, when Francis led the procession around the obelisk, on Sunday, the Pope walked directly from a car to his chair on the altar for the blessing and the commemoration of the entrance of the Lord Jesus into Jerusalem, before the start of Mass. He also delivered the homily seated.

    Also called Passion Sunday, Palm Sunday includes the reading of the Lord’s Passion from the Gospel of St. Luke.

    St. Luke wrote, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” were some of the last words uttered by Jesus on the cross before his death.

    Pope Francis commented on this phrase throughout his homily for Palm Sunday 2022.


    [End, description of the Palm Sunday Mass]

    1c) Text of the Pope’s homily

    Palm Sunday 2022: Full Text of Pope Francis’ Homily (link)

    ‘Let us journey toward Easter with his forgiveness.’

    By Pope Francis

    April 10, 2022

    Here is the full text of Pope Francis‘ homily for Palm Sunday 2022, which was celebrated with the public in St. Peter’s Square on April 10.

    On Calvary, two ways of thinking collided. In the Gospel, the words of the Crucified Jesus are in sharp contrast with the words of those who crucified him. The latter keep saying: “Save yourself.” The leaders of the people said: “Let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One” (Luke 23:35). The soldiers said the same thing: “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself” (37). Finally, one of the criminals, echoing their words, said to him: “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself” (39). Save yourself. Take care of yourself. Think of yourself — not of others, but only of your own well-being, your own success, your own interests: your possessions, your power, your image. Save yourself. This is the constant refrain of the world that crucified the Lord. Let us think about it.

    Against this self-centered mindset is God’s way of thinking. The mantra “save yourself” collides with the words of the Savior, who offers his self. Like his adversaries, Jesus speaks three times in today’s Gospel (34, 43, 46). Yet he did not claim anything for himself; indeed, he did not even defend or justify himself. He prayed to the Father and offered mercy to the Good Thief. One of his words, in particular, marked the difference with regard to the mantra “save yourself.” He said: “Father, forgive them” (34).

    Let us reflect on the Lord’s words. When did he say them? At a very specific moment: while he was being crucified, as he felt the nails piercing his wrists and feet. Let us try to imagine the excruciating pain he suffered. At that moment, amid the most searing physical pain of his passion, Christ asked forgiveness for those who were piercing him. At times like that, we would scream out and give vent to all our anger and suffering. But Jesus said: “Father, forgive them.”

    Unlike the other martyrs about whom the Bible speaks (2 Maccabees 7:18-19), Jesus did not rebuke his executioners or threaten punishments in the name of God; rather, he prayed for the evildoers. Fastened to the gibbet of humiliation, his attitude of giving became that of forgiving.

    Brothers and sisters, God does the same thing with us. When we cause suffering by our actions, God suffers yet has only one desire: to forgive us. In order to appreciate this, let us gaze upon the Crucified Lord. It is from his painful wounds, from the streams of blood caused by the nails of our sinfulness that forgiveness gushes forth. Let us look to Jesus on the cross and realize that greater words were never spoken: Father, forgive. Let us look to Jesus on the cross and realize that we have never been looked upon with a more gentle and compassionate gaze. Let us look to Jesus on the cross and understand that we have never received a more loving embrace. Let us look to the Crucified Lord and say: “Thank you, Jesus: You love me and always forgive me, even at those times when I find it hard to love and forgive myself.”

    There, as he was being crucified, at the height of his pain, Jesus himself obeyed the most demanding of his commandments: that we love our enemies. Let us think about someone who, in our own lives, injured, offended or disappointed us; someone who made us angry, who did not understand us or who set a bad example. How often we spend time looking back on those who have wronged us. How often we think back and lick the wounds that other people, life itself and history have inflicted on us. Today, Jesus teaches us not to remain there, but to react, to break the vicious circle of evil and sorrow; to react to the nails in our lives with love, to the buffets of hatred with the embrace of forgiveness. As disciples of Jesus, do we follow the Master or do we follow our own desire to strike back? It is a question we should all ask: Do we follow our own desire to strike back?

    If we want to test whether we truly belong to Christ, let us look at how we behave toward those who have hurt us. The Lord asks us to respond not as we feel, or as everyone else does, but in the way he acts toward us. He asks us to break out of the mindset that says: “I will love you if you love me; I will be your friend if you are my friend; I will help you if you help me.” Rather, we are to show compassion and mercy to everyone, for God sees a son or a daughter in each person. He does not separate us into good and bad, friends and enemies. We are the ones who do this, and we make God suffer. For him, all of us are his beloved children, children whom he desires to embrace and forgive. […]

    Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do: According to the Gospel, Jesus “kept saying” this (34). He did not say it once for all, as he was being nailed to the cross; instead, he spent all his time on the cross with these words on his lips and in his heart. God never tires of forgiving. We must understand this, but understand it not only with the mind but with the heart. God does not tire of forgiving us. It is we who tire of asking for forgiveness. But he never tires of forgiving. He does not put up with us for a while and then change his mind, as we are tempted to do. Jesus – so the Gospel of Luke teaches us – came into the world to bring us forgiveness for our sins (Luke 1:77). In the end, he gave us a clear command: to proclaim forgiveness of sins to everyone in his name (Luke 24:47). Brothers and sisters, let us never grow tired of proclaiming God’s forgiveness: we priests, of administering it; all Christians, of receiving it and bearing witness to it. Let us not tire of forgiving.

    Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do: that ignorance of heart that all of us sinners have. Let us observe one more thing: Jesus not only asked that they be forgiven, but also mentioned the reason why: for they know not what they do. How could that be? Those who crucified him had premeditated his killing, organized his arrest and trials, and now they were standing on Calvary to witness his death. Yet Christ justifies those violent men by saying: They know not. That is how Jesus acts in our regard: He makes himself our advocate. He does not set himself against us, but for us and against our sins. His words make us think: for they know not.

    When we resort to violence, we show that we no longer know anything about God, who is our Father, or even about others, who are our brothers and sisters. We lose sight of why we are in the world and even end up committing senseless acts of cruelty. We see this in the folly of war, where Christ is crucified yet another time. Christ is once more nailed to the cross in mothers who mourn the unjust death of husbands and sons. He is crucified in refugees who flee from bombs with children in their arms. He is crucified in the elderly left alone to die; in young people deprived of a future; in soldiers sent to kill their brothers and sisters.

    Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. Many people heard these extraordinary words, but only one person responded to them. He was a criminal, crucified next to Jesus. We can imagine that the mercy of Christ stirred up in him one last hope and led him to speak these words: “Jesus, remember me” (Luke 23:42). As if to say: “Everyone else has forgotten me, yet you keep thinking of those who crucify you. With you, then, there is also a place for me.” The Good Thief accepted God as his life was ending, and in this way, his life began anew. In the hell of this world, he saw heaven opening up: “Today you will be with me in paradise” (43). This is the marvel of God’s forgiveness, which turned the last request of a man condemned to death into the first canonization of history.

    Brothers and sisters, Christ is crucified there today. In the course of this week, let us cling to the certainty that God can forgive every sin — God forgives everything; he bridges every distance — and turn all mourning into dancing (Psalm 30:12); the certainty that with Jesus there is always a place for everyone; that with Jesus things are never over; that with him, it is never too late. With God, we can always come back to life. With God, we can always come back.

    Take courage! Let us journey toward Easter with his forgiveness, for Christ constantly intercedes for us before the Father (Hebrews 7:25). Gazing upon our violent and tormented world, he never tires of repeating — as we now say with our hearts in silence — “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

    [End, homily of Pope Francis on Palm Sunday]

    Hilarion: “The Middle East is the main region where the Kirill-Francis meeting could take place. Logistics and security issues to be defined” (link)

    Monday, April 11, 2022

    [Note: It is now being said that Pope Francis will travel to Lebanon on June 14 and 15, then go on the Jerusalem on the following day, where a meeting with Patriarch Krill may be organized. —RM]

    (LB, RC – edited by Editorial Staff “Il seismografo”) During the TV program “Church and World” [a regular Sunday program; so these remarks were made on Sunday, April 10] of the Russia24 channel, the [Russian] Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeev, head of the Department for External Ecclesiastical Relations (DECR) of the Patriarchate of Moscow, yesterday assured that the main place for a meeting between [Russian Orthodox Patriarch] Kirill and [Pope] Francisis certainly the Middle East but — he pointed out — it is not yet possible to announce the date and location.

    The Ria Novosti agency underlines that this region is seen as “one of the priority areas” for a meeting between Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all of Russia and Pope Francis.

    Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, added: “In the current difficult political situation, not only are the questions relating to the contents of the meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch important. Security and logistics issues also require very careful study.”

    According to Hilarion, it is not yet possible to provide information on the time and place of the meeting “because these issues are being worked on.”

    “From the beginning, the Pope and the Patriarch have wanted to meet where there are problems, where the Christian population needs support. So, obviously, the Middle East is considered one of the priority areas to prepare for such a meeting,” concluded the Metropolitan.

    Hilarion has been traveling to Rome often for some years. He personally met Pope Francis most recently before the start of the Russian aggression against Ukraine last December 22nd. The two religious leaders talked to each other for just over an hour. Sixty-four days later the war would break out.

    Then, Patriarch Kirill, Hilarion, and other collaborators of the Patriarchate, conversed by videoconference with the Holy Father, Card. Kurt Koch and other assistants on March 16.    

    Videoconference Francis – Kirill (March 16, 2022)

    Communiqué of the Holy See

    Communiqué of the Patriarchate of Moscow

    3) Another front said to opening in the Russia-Ukraine war, in the far southwest of the country, near pro-Russian Transnistria; the report is from an Italian media source — so this is an example of the news being read in Italy by Italians

    Transnistria, the 12-kilometer convoy to the south and Russia’s next moves (link)

    MONDAY 11 APRIL 2022

    (Andrea Marinelli and Guido Olimpio – Corriere della Sera)

    This is the new phase of the “special” operation in south-southeast Ukraine: how long it will last, what the Russian General Staff is doing, how it will affect the territory, what changes with the new Russian commander, what weapons will the Ukrainians have at their disposal

    The 12-kilometer convoy photographed by satellites visually signals the Russian maneuvers after the withdrawal from the northern sector. This is the new phase of the “special” operation in south-southeast Ukraine, a plan marked by some points.

    1) The experts are divided on the time window: there are those who think of an offensive in one or two weeks (bearing in mind the alleged “expiry” of the operation, May 9). On the other hand, there are those who extend preparations by arguing that Russia is not yet ready for a massive push.

    2) Moscow, in addition to moving troops, tries to fill the ranks. London says that the Russian army is also trying to recruit people who have been discharged in Transnistria, a separatist territory of Moldova. However, as many former generals have explained, it is not enough to transfer troops from one front to another or add soldiers: the quality of the men counts, the wear and tear of the conflict weighs. Different sources point out that logistical difficulties remain, the Battalions are depleted, some have been literally neutralized. For these reasons there is the skepticism of some analysts about a massive redeployment of units returning from the battle of Kiev. In recent days, images have emerged of their retreat in Belarus and also towards national borders.

    3) Some observers warn, however, not to underestimate the invader. He replies by stating that the Army is not as weak as we would like to believe and could employ a high volume of fire with heavy artillery, missiles, rocket batteries in this chessboard. He has the possibility of engaging his opponents over long distances while the Ukrainians do not have, at the moment, a sufficient number of similar means. The action of Russian aviation has also grown, 220-240 daily sorties concentrated in the south-south-east region.

    4) The territory — the analysts underline — is flat, there are fewer wooded areas. This is an advantage for the Army and a weak point for the defenders. In the north, the Ukrainians used vegetation and soil to strike a “pachyderm” in an agile way using anti-tank systems, moving quickly and evading enemy fire. And the weather has its impact: any muddy ground represents an obstacle to movement (as seen with the «rasputitsa», also in the north).

    5) Weapons chapter. NATO is helping Kiev massively, however it has problems to solve. NATO fishes in the arsenals of Eastern Europe, but the means are not always up to par and the stocks run out. The allies would now like to provide more modern Western material, but this takes time as they have to train the Ukrainians. And the threat of attack looms, we must hurry. In fact, public statements by European leaders show the desire to adapt supplies to the changing situation on the ground. In addition to tanks and armored vehicles, the Slovaks also sent two 155 mm self-propelled artillery batteries (Zuzana). The idea of ​​delivering some Mig 29 fighters by Bratislava also re-emerged, a move previously denied. We will see. London, in turn, has promised anti-ship systems useful for the protection of Odessa. Along with weapons, there is a strong demand for ammunition while Kiev has to solve logistical problems. These weeks, however, have shown that what was not possible often became reality.

    6) Putin has entrusted the management of the operations to General Alexandr Dvornikov. Opinions differ on his abilities. Starting with his time in command during the Syrian campaign: he did not shine, they eventually called him back to his homeland. But he relied on the “scorched earth.”

    Source – Corriere della Sera

    4) Other Vatican diplomatic concerns

    Cardinal Parolin Says He Hopes Vatican-China Deal Can Be Tweaked (link)

    Since it was put in place, there have been six ordinations of Catholic bishops in China with the twofold approval of the Holy See and the Chinese government. The terms of the agreement have never been disclosed.

    By Andrea Gagliarducci/CNA

    April 11, 2022

    VATICAN CITY — With the Vatican-China deal on the appointment of bishops due to expire in October, Cardinal Pietro Parolin hopes that the agreement can be tweaked.

    In the third part of a sit-down interview with CNA, the Vatican Secretary of State discussed the deal, the text of which has never been published. But he did not go into detail or explain precisely which aspects he hoped to change.

    He also spoke about the Vatican’s close interest in Vietnam, the Balkans, and the Caucasus region. (In Part 1 of the hour-long interview, he addressed the Vatican’s efforts to end the Ukraine war and, in Part 2, the reform of the Roman Curia.)

    The Holy See first signed the provisional agreement with China in September 2018. The agreement had a two-year term and was renewed for another two years in October 2020, with no adjustments or amendments.

    Since it was put in place, there have been six ordinations of Catholic bishops in China with the twofold approval of the Holy See and the Chinese government. The terms of the agreement have never been disclosed.

    With the expiration date approaching, Cardinal Parolin said: “We are reflecting on what to do. COVID did not help us because it interrupted the ongoing dialogue. We are trying to resume the dialogue concretely, with meetings that we hope will occur soon. We will reflect on the results of the agreement and possibly on the need to make clarifications or review some points.”

    Asked if he would like to tweak the agreement, the 67-year-old Italian cardinal replied: “I hope so.”

    Regarding relations with Vietnam, another of the few remaining countries with no formal diplomatic relations with the Holy See, Cardinal Parolin said that a Vatican delegation would be visiting the country again soon.

    “We are working on a consolidated method of relationships and dialogue,” he said. “After the appointment of the non-resident representative of the Holy See in Vietnam in 2012, the next step should be reached, that of the presence of a representative of the Holy See in the country.”

    Another region of particular interest to the Holy See is the Balkans. During Pope Francis’ trip to Greece, there was a bilateral meeting between Secretariat of State officials and those of the Greek foreign ministry. Minister Nikos Dendias proposed a “control room” on the Balkans, a sort of diplomatic table at which the Holy See would have a seat.

    There has been no news of a follow-up to the proposal, and even Cardinal Parolin said he was unaware of any concrete developments. “The idea for now has remained as such,” he said.

    But, he added, “on the part of the diplomacy of the Holy See, there is special attention for the Balkans. It is an area where there are significant tensions and the fear that these tensions could lead to something worse. [Vatican ‘foreign minister’] Archbishop Gallagher recently visited Bosnia-Herzegovina precisely to testify to the interest of the Holy See.”

    “I do not know if this idea of ​​the ‘control room’ will recover,” he added, “but we certainly must not stop paying attention and help the Balkan area in all possible ways.”

    The Holy See is called to maintain a tricky balance in the Caucasus. In particular, after the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh and the painful peace for the Armenians, there are concerns that the region’s Christian heritage is at risk.

    Nagorno-Karabakh was merged with Azerbaijan during the Soviet period and then declared independence from Baku when Azerbaijan itself broke away from the Soviet Union. The 2020 conflict brought a territory previously controlled by Armenians back under Azerbaijani control, sparking concern for its cultural heritage.

    The European Parliament recently passed a resolution condemning “the destruction of cultural heritage in Nagorno-Karabakh,” while in December, the International Court of Justice said that Azerbaijan should “take all necessary measures to prevent and punish acts of vandalism and desecration affecting Armenian cultural heritage.”

    The Azeris also complain that the Armenians in the region have destroyed their cultural heritage. The Holy See therefore finds itself in a problematic situation as it has good relations with both Armenia and Azerbaijan. For example, the Holy See and Azerbaijan signed an agreement to restore and conserve the Santa Priscilla catacombs in Rome. Azerbaijan has financed several restoration works through a foundation chaired by the wife of its President Ilham Aliyev.

    The Holy See finds itself in the difficult position of remaining balanced without ruining relations. To maintain a balance, Cardinal Parolin explained, “we always refer to the principles that should guide international relations.”

    Concerning Nagorno Karabakh, he said, “the Holy See supported the proposal of a commission of experts from UNESCO, to be sent to the site with an exploratory mandate to verify because there are mutual accusations of putting its historical and cultural heritage at risk.”

    “The Holy See had also offered the availability to participate with an expert. So far, however, it has not been possible. This also indicates the tensions that continue to exist, so much so that no initiative, not even of third parties, can be created to help the parties get closer.”

    The Secretary of State also addressed the issue of religious buildings at risk in Europe, where there are more and more attacks on places of worship. For example, a French government report released in February showed that in 2021, there were 1,659 anti-religious acts in France, of which 857 were anti-Christian acts.

    Cardinal Parolin said: “It is, unfortunately, a very common phenomenon in France, and it is still not clear what the causes of the fire of Notre-Dame were. The number of attacks indicates that religious intolerance is growing despite all efforts to respect each other.”

    “I see this commitment to respect at high levels. For example, I was able to breathe it during my trip to Dubai for the day of the Holy See at the Expo. But, on the other hand, we cannot neglect the issue of radicalization due to many different factors.”

    Finally, Cardinal Parolin touched on Africa. Pope Francis will visit the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan on July 2-7. The pope has devoted considerable attention to South Sudan, the world’s newest country, summoning its leaders to a spiritual retreat at the Vatican in 2019.

    Meanwhile, the Holy See established a nunciature in South Sudan in June 2019. The nuncio to South Sudan is traditionally the nuncio to Nairobi, Kenya, where he also represents the Holy See at the United Nations office in Africa. The establishment of a residential nunciature, with a chargé d’affaires who takes care of relations, is a sign of particular diplomatic attention by the Holy See.

    But Cardinal Parolin said that there was no talk of the appointment of a nuncio only for South Sudan. “This is not an issue we are studying at the moment. Nor has the question been raised in view of the pope’s trip,” he explained.

    Pope Francis has wanted to visit South Sudan for many years, but the spiritual retreat in 2019 did not immediately create the conditions for a visit. Finally, Archbishop Gallagher visited the country in December, paving the way for the announcement of the papal trip.

    Cardinal Parolin recalled that Pope Francis “had wanted a spiritual retreat, with the idea of ​​giving new life to the ongoing negotiations and giving a spiritual tone to the dialogue.”

    “Ours is a diplomacy of speech and persuasion. It works if it is listened to,” he commented.

    It is indeed a limitation, which is also seen in the Ukraine war, where the prevailing narrative cannot hide the fact that the Ukrainians are fighting alone.

    “And they are paying for the tension,” noted Parolin, “especially at the level of the civilian population.”

    “So I believe that this should be the only point of view to start from today. Not so much the diplomatic, political discourse, but the awareness that people are paying too high a price.”

    [End, report on some of the Vatican’s other diplomatic concerns]

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