Pope Francis meets Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko

Pope Francis meets with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at the Vatican on 20 November. Photo: CNS/Mykhailo Markiv, Ukrainian Presidential Press Service handout via Reuters
Pope Francis meets with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at the Vatican on 20 November. Photo: CNS/Mykhailo Markiv, Ukrainian Presidential Press Service handout via Reuters

Although the conflict between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists continues, Pope Francis and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko still share hope that a political solution still can be found, the Vatican said.

Welcoming Poroshenko to the Vatican on 20 November, the pope greeted him in Ukrainian. Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, explained that at the age of 11, the young Jorge Mario Bergoglio learned a few phrases of Ukrainian when he served as an altar boy for a Ukrainian Catholic priest in Buenos Aires.

Pope Francis and Poroshenko spoke privately for more than 20 minutes. The Vatican said that their conversation was “dedicated principally to matters connected with the situation of conflict in the country”.

“In this respect, the hope was shared that, with the commitment of all the interested parties, political solutions may be favoured, starting with the full implementation of the Minsk Accords,” a cease-fire agreement signed in September 2014, the statement said.

Additionally, the two expressed their concerns regarding the difficulties in providing humanitarian relief, healthcare in areas of the country where the fighting continues.

The Ukrainian president gave the pope a glass sculpture of an angel, which represented “a messenger of God who brings peace to every home and reminds us of such principal values of life as God’s blessing, family, labor and peaceful skies overhead”.

Poroshenko told the pope he hoped “that with this you will remember Ukraine”.

Pope Francis gave the president a gift he said represented his “desire for hope in Ukraine”: a bronze medallion with an image of an olive branch holding two stones together. He also gave Poroshenko a copy of his apostolic exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, and a copy of his encyclical on the care of creation, Laudato Si’.

After their meeting, Poroshenko met privately with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, and with Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Vatican foreign minister.