By Charles Igwe
Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, appointed by Pope Francis to lead a peace mission between Ukraine and Russia, will be traveling to Washington, D.C., this week for a meeting with President Joe Biden, as confirmed by the Vatican and the White House.
The cardinal’s visit comes shortly after the Biden administration announced additional military aid of $800 million to support Ukraine’s counteroffensive, which included the controversial inclusion of “cluster bombs” banned by most countries, including the Holy See.
Cardinal Zuppi, who has already visited both Ukraine and Russia, will be accompanied by an official from the Vatican’s Secretariat of State during his visit to the U.S. capital from July 17 to July 19.
The Vatican statement announcing Cardinal Zuppi’s visit emphasized its purpose to exchange ideas and perspectives on the current tragic situation in Ukraine, support humanitarian initiatives to alleviate suffering, particularly among children, and promote peace in the region.
The White House, in its statement, outlined the agenda for the meeting, focusing on discussing the widespread suffering caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine, efforts by the United States and the Holy See to provide humanitarian aid, and the repatriation of Ukrainian children forcibly deported by Russian officials.
Details regarding specific individuals Cardinal Zuppi will meet during his three-day visit have not been disclosed by the Vatican.
The United States has been a major provider of military support to Ukraine since the Russian invasion in 2022, with a total of $41.3 billion in military aid sent thus far, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.
The inclusion of cluster bombs in the latest military package has drawn criticism from various bishops’ conferences, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, due to the severe harm they pose to civilians.
Bishop David Malloy, head of the USCCB’s International Justice and Peace Committee, highlighted the U.S. bishops’ longstanding advocacy for the U.S. government to sign the 2008 Convention on Cluster Bombs, echoing Pope Francis’ call for commitment to these conventions to prevent further casualties.
Cardinal Zuppi, known for his involvement in peace-building efforts through the Sant’Egidio community, has been actively promoting dialogue and peace between Ukraine and Russia since his appointment as the Vatican’s peace envoy. He previously visited Kyiv and Moscow, engaging with political and religious leaders in both countries.