Pope departs from diplomatic protocol over Ukraine
Pope Francis made an unprecedented break with diplomatic protocol on Friday by visiting the Russian embassy to the Holy See to relay his concerns over Russia’s military assault on Ukraine. The pontiff spent 30 minutes speaking to the Russian ambassador, according to the Vatican's spokesperson Matteo Bruni.
"He went to express his concern over the war," Bruni said in a statement to Reuters, although he stopped short of confirming whether Pope Francis offered the Vatican to serve as a mediator in the conflict.
The visit is believed to be the first time a pope has visited an embassy in the Holy See during a time of conflict to speak to an ambassador, with foreign envoys traditionally speaking to the Vatican's Secretary of State or meeting with the Pope in the Apostolic Palace.
The intervention by Pope Francis comes after he commented on the situation at his general assembly on Wednesday, telling those in attendance that the conflict causes a "great pain in my heart," while urging politicians on all sides to examine their consciences and "abstain from any action that could provoke more suffering."
On Thursday, the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin stated that the Holy See maintains hope that those involved in the fighting will have a “glimmer of conscience” and de-escalate tensions.
The Pope's visit to the Russian embassy comes amid a second day of military action by Russia after President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops to cross into Ukraine. Western nations have responded to Putin's actions by condemning Moscow and imposing sanctions on Russia.