Vatican ready to 'facilitate dialogue' between Russia and Ukraine

Vatican's top diplomat calls for end to violence, says "never too late" for talks.

The Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said the Holy See is ready to "facilitate dialogue" between Russia and Ukraine, saying it would be a "gigantic catastrophe" if the conflict spread to other European countries.

Cardinal Parolin said there is "a need to avoid any escalation, stop the violence and negotiate", insisting "it is never too late" for talks.

Parolin, who ranks second to Pope Francis in the Vatican hierarchy, said he is "convinced that there is always room for negotiation", despite "the war unleashed by Russia against Ukraine."

The cardinal made his remarks in an interview published in several Italian newspapers ahead of Monday's expected meeting between delegations from Moscow and Kyiv on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border to discuss a ceasefire.

During the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis said his "heart is broken" by the conflict in Ukraine, calling for humanitarian corridors to help refugees, reports Reuters.

Francis spoke to Ukrainian president Zelensky on Saturday, offering his prayers for peace and expressing his "most profound pain for the tragic events" unfolding in the country.

The phone call came the day after Francis broke Vatican protocol by visiting the Russian embassy to the Holy See to convey his concern over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Pope Francis, whose Pontifex Twitter account has posted anti-war messages in Ukrainian in recent days, has called for a day of fasting for peace on 2 March, Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent in the Christian calendar.

Photo La Repubblica