Pope says visit to Kyiv still ‘on the table’

VALLETTA, MALTA – Pope Francis said Saturday he was still considering a visit to Ukraine's capital of Kyiv following invitations from the mayor and the president.

Aboard the papal plane en route to Malta for an official two-day visit, Francis was asked by a reporter whether a visit to the city was still possible.

"Yes, it's on the table," replied the 85-year-old.

In a March 8 letter to the pope written in English, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said Francis' presence in the capital "is key for saving lives and paving the path to peace in our city, country and beyond."

"We appeal to you, as a spiritual leader, to show your compassion, to stand with the Ukrainian people by jointly spreading the call for peace," wrote Klitschko.

On March 23, President Volodymyr Zelensky told Italian parliamentarians by video conference he had spoken to the pope and also invited him to Ukraine.

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In the sixth week of the conflict, Ukraine has said it is beginning to regain territory north of Kyiv previously controlled by Russian forces, but the capital is still the target of Russian air strikes and parts of the country have been reduced to rubble.

Francis has repeatedly spoken out against Russia's invasion of Ukraine and again Saturday during his first address in Malta, he lashed out at war-mongering, in a veiled reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"Once again, some potentate, sadly caught up in anachronistic claims of nationalist interests, is provoking and fomenting conflicts…" he told Maltese dignitaries.

Artmotion S.Africa

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