Pope Francis has arrived in Malta but the possibility of a visit to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv is “on the table”, according to Vatican News.
That was the Holy Father’s response when asked by journalists aboard the papal flight from Rome to Malta, whether he is considering the offer to visit the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.
The Holy Father has begun his full first day to the Mediterranean island nation of Malta, arriving this morning on the Papal ITA Airways plane carrying him, various members of the Curia, and 74 journalists that departed earlier Saturday morning from Rome’s Fiumicino airport. This Apostolic Journey to Malta represents the Pope’s 36th visit abroad and is his first journey of 2022, a visit twice postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Holy Father’s 36th Apostolic Visit, where welcoming migrants and refugees is at the center, takes place as the war in Ukraine wages into its second month. The President of Ukraine has spoken to Pope Francis several times by phone and has encouraged him to visit the war-ravaged nation and to be a mediating force between Kyiv and Moscow. Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the head of Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, has invited Pope Francis to Ukraine in the past.
During the Pope’s Sunday Angeluses and during his weekly Wednesday General Audiences, the Pope has made appeals for an end to the bombings and violence causing millions of Ukrainians to flee from their homes, and claiming numerous lives daily.
The Pope has given the availability of the Holy See to do whatever is possible to help bring an end to this war. The Holy Father has also participated in video calls with the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow.
The mayor of Kyiv, Vitalij Klyčko, personally invited the Pope. Following the invitation, the Pope reiterated his closeness “to the suffering of the city, its people, those who had to flee and those who are called to administer it,” as relayed by the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni.
Early Saturday morning, before leaving Casa Santa Marta for the airport, the Pope greeted some refugee families from Ukraine hosted by the Community of Sant’Egidio, together with the Papal Almoner, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski.
Among those present to wish the Pope a safe and fruitful journey, was a young mother with two little girls, ages 5 and 7, who arrived in Italy from Lviv about 20 days ago. Since their arrival in Rome, one of the children has been able to undergo cardiological surgery and is now under medical supervision.
There were also two other mothers and their 4 children, aged between 10 and 17 years old, currently hosted in an apartment offered by an Italian woman. They too are refugees, having fled the Ukrainian city of Ternopil just over 20 days ago.
The third family on hand to greet the Pope arrived in Rome three days ago, passing through Poland. The mother, father, and three children fled Kyiv together with the elderly grandmother. They too have found welcome in a house offered by an Italian woman for the reception of refugees.