Volodymyr Zelensky meets Pope Francis in Rome

Pope Francis shakes hands with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky  (VATICAN MEDIA/AFP via Getty Imag)
Pope Francis shakes hands with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (VATICAN MEDIA/AFP via Getty Imag)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky held talks with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Saturday.

Mr Zelensky said it was a great honour to meet the pontiff after a 40-minute long meeting between the pair.

In a written statement, the Vatican said the two men spoke about Ukraine’s “humanitarian and political situation provoked by the war going on”.

“The pope assured his constant prayer, paid witness to by his many public appeals and by his continued invoking of the Lord for peace, since February of last year,” the Vatican said, a reference to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

“Both agreed on the need to continue humanitarian efforts” to help the population. “The pope underlined in particular the urgent need for ‘humanitarian gestures’ toward the most fragile persons, innocent victims of the conflict,” the statement said.

Last month, Ukraine’s prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, met with Francis at the Vatican and said he asked the pontiff to help Ukraine get back children illegally taken to Russia during the invasion.

Saturday’s communique from the Vatican made no mention of that, and there were no immediate details from Mr Zelensky’s side about his meeting with the pontiff.

Ahead of Mr Zelensky’s arrival, police moved tourists to one side of St Peter’s Square so the Ukrainian president’s motorcade could speed across the vast cobblestone space.

Earlier in the day, Mr Zelensky met with Italian officials after his morning flight to Rome. He received pledges of both open-ended military and financial support as well as stronger backing for Ukrainian membership of the European Union.

“The message is clear and simple,” Meloni said, flanked by Mr Zelensky as the two briefed reporters after their meeting at her office, which lasted more than an hour. “The future of Ukraine is a future of peace and freedom. And it’s the future of Europe, a future of peace and freedom, for which there are no other possible solutions.″