Cardinal Zuppi Meets With President Biden to Discuss Humanitarian Work in Ukraine

Italian Cardinal Matteo Zuppi met with President Joe Biden July 18 to discuss the Vatican’s peace efforts.

L to R: Cardinal Matteo Zuppi and U.S. President Joe Biden
L to R: Cardinal Matteo Zuppi and U.S. President Joe Biden (photo: Quirinale.it, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons; public domain)

Italian Cardinal Matteo Zuppi met with President Joe Biden Tuesday evening to discuss the Vatican’s humanitarian efforts in war-torn Ukraine.

A statement from the White House following the two-and-a-half-hour meeting read:

“They … discussed the Holy See’s efforts providing humanitarian aid to address the widespread suffering caused by Russia’s continuing aggression in Ukraine, as well as the Vatican’s advocacy for the return of forcibly deported Ukrainian children.”

The Ukrainian government says that Russia forcibly deported thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia after the invasion last year.

In April, Pope Francis said the Holy See intends to help facilitate the return of Ukrainian children.

“It is a question of humanity before it is a question of the spoils of war or a displacement caused by war,” the Pope said. “All human gestures help, but gestures of cruelty do not help. We must do everything humanly possible.”

Pope Francis in June appointed Cardinal Zuppi as his special envoy. A Vatican statement before the meeting, which was part of a three-day visit to the nation’s capital, stated that the goal of Cardinal Zuppi’s meeting was to promote peace and support humanitarian efforts.

Speaking to EWTN before Cardinal Zuppi’s meeting, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, whom Pope Francis recently named a cardinal, said Cardinal Zuppi has the full trust of the Pope to convey the Vatican’s peace efforts.

“The Holy Father wants to help in the process of peace, and he is fully aware of the difficulties of the situations. ... He wants to introduce [dialogue] into the discussion,” Cardinal-elect Pierre said.

According to the White House statement, Biden also “shared his wishes for Pope Francis’ continued ministry and global leadership and welcomed the recent nomination of a U.S. archbishop as cardinal [Archbishop Robert Prevost].”

Cardinal Zuppi’s visit “seeks to facilitate the exchange of ideas and opinions regarding the current tragic situation as well as to provide support for humanitarian initiatives aimed at alleviating the suffering of the most vulnerable people, particularly children,” a statement from the Vatican said.

In early June, Cardinal Zuppi met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other political and religious leaders in Kyiv. He also met with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill during a visit to Moscow near the end of June.

Earlier this month, Biden announced that the United States would provide another $800 million in Ukrainian military aid in the administration’s efforts to counter Russia’s military offensive. The package will include dual-purpose improved conventional munitions for Ukraine, which are more commonly known as cluster bombs.

Cluster bombs are banned by more than 100 countries, including most European countries and the Holy See, because of the high rates of civilian casualties caused by the weapons. The United States, Russia and Ukraine have not banned the use of these weapons.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) expressed concern about the inclusion of cluster bombs in the package due to “their indiscriminate nature and risk to civilian populations long after fighting has ceased.”

“Pope Francis has addressed the conventions on antipersonnel mines and cluster munitions, exhorting all countries to commit to these conventions ‘so that there are no more mine victims,’” read a statement from Bishop David Malloy of Rockford, Illinois, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace. “While recognizing Ukraine’s right to self-defense, we must continue to pray for dialogue and peace, and I join with our Holy Father in supporting and sharing in his moral concern and aspiration.”

Some lawmakers sought to prohibit the president from providing Ukraine with cluster bombs through an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. The effort received support from 98 Republicans and 49 Democrats but ultimately failed 147-276.

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