While serving as Pope Francis’ peace envoy, Zuppi has made several diplomatic visits across the world to promote peace between Russia and Ukraine, including stops in Kyiv, Moscow, and Washington, D.C. Zuppi has strong ties to Sant’Egidio, a Catholic lay association that has been involved in peace negotiations in many countries. Zuppi’s mission does not have mediation as its immediate goal, however, the Vatican has said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Sept. 15 that “the Vatican envoy [Zuppi] is going to come again” and Moscow will “welcome him.” The Vatican has not yet confirmed Zuppi’s trip.
Pope Francis met with outgoing Russian Ambassador Aleksandr Avdeyev when the pontiff paid an unusual visit to the Russian embassy on Feb. 25, 2022, the day after Russia’s full-scale invasion began. The Vatican said the pope went to the embassy “to show his concern for the war.”
Later, in September 2022, Pope Francis said he was involved in a prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine, which involved calling Avdeyev “to see if something could be done, if an exchange of prisoners could be speeded up.”
Pope Francis has condemned the war and called for peace in Ukraine on numerous occasions, but has also occasionally received criticism from Ukrainians for the way he has expressed himself. Most recently, in August, the Vatican clarified that the pope did not intend to exalt Russian imperialism while speaking off the cuff during a live video conference with Russian youth on Aug. 25.
In the speech, Francis referenced “Mother Russia” and praised “the Great Russia of Peter I, Catherine II, that great enlightened empire.” President Vladimir Putin had previously compared himself to the 18th-century czar Peter the Great in justifying the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.