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Vatican: Putin suspending nuclear treaty is ‘move in the wrong direction’

Russian president announced Feb. 21 that Russia would suspend participation in the New START treaty with the U.S.

VATICAN CITY — Russia’s suspension of a nuclear arms treaty with the United States weakens structures promoting global security in the nuclear age, a senior Vatican official said.

“Sadly, I think this is a move in the wrong direction in terms of peace and the security of the world,” Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, Vatican foreign minister, said Feb. 22.

“The Holy See has been working on nuclear issues for many years now, and we regret the dismantlement of the nuclear architecture built in terms of containment of nuclear arms and testing, and this is just another step,” the archbishop said.

At the end of his state of the nation address Feb. 21, just three days before the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would suspend its participation in the New START treaty with the United States.

The treaty, signed in 2010, restricted the world’s two largest nuclear-armed superpowers to a maximum of 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads — still more than enough to destroy all of Earth’s major cities — and provided for a series of mutual onsite inspections.

And as the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine approached, Archbishop Gallagher said that despite numerous invitations from Church leaders and civil authorities, the Holy See is not currently discussing a papal trip to Ukraine.

A delegation of Ukrainian parliamentarians asked for Pope Francis to visit Ukraine when they met with Archbishop Gallagher Feb. 21, the day before they attended the pope’s general audience and greeted him privately.

The pope believes that “the conditions have to be right” for a trip to Ukraine to take place, Archbishop Gallagher said. “He doesn’t want to go somewhere where there will be a truce for a number of hours” only for violence and death to continue upon his departure.

The pope’s “ideal concept of a trip would be to bring the same message of peace to both Kyiv and to Moscow,” the archbishop said. He recognized that the pope’s desire to travel to Russia is difficult for Ukrainians to understand but said that the pope must adhere to his vision of achieving peace.

In the trips Pope Francis has chosen to make in the 10 years since he became pope, “most of his intention has been to bring peace,” he said, adding that a trip to Ukraine would have a prospect of bringing about “some very positive result.”

Ukrainian Catholics hail Biden’s surprise visit to Kyiv for ‘amazing boost of hope’

By Gina Christian | OSV News

KYIV, Ukraine — U.S. President Joe Biden’s unexpected Feb. 20 visit to Kyiv, calmly walking alongside Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as raid sirens wailed in the capital, is being hailed as a surprise and a signal to the world, Ukrainian Catholic leaders told OSV News.

“We wouldn’t expect that President Biden would come to the capital. Maybe Lviv, as it’s safer, but Kyiv? It’s really an amazing boost of hope and strength for us,” Auxiliary Bishop Jan Sobilo of Kharkiv-Zaporizhzhia said. “People were shocked. … somehow we all got the positive feeling that maybe war is finally coming to an end.”

Metropolitan Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Archeparchy of Philadelphia said Ukrainians are deeply grateful for what he called “outstanding” American support. He said one woman in Bucha urged him to “thank all Americans and President Biden.”

“There’s nothing stronger than presence, and the presence of the president underlines his personal commitment, and that of the U.S. government and people, to freedom and democracy,” Archbishop Gudziak said.

Biden and Zelenskyy laid wreaths at Kyiv’s Wall of Remembrance.

“One year later, Kyiv stands. And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands. The Americans stand with you, and the world stands with you,” Biden said in an address, according to reporters present.

With a renewed Russian offensive expected soon, Bishop Sobilo said Biden’s visit was “like a movie scene — and we’re hoping for a happy ending.”

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