The Vatican Secretary for Relations with States met with the Ukrainian foreign minister in Kyiv on Friday, offering the Holy See’s aid in enabling a negotiation process to end the Russia-Ukraine war.

Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s equivalent of a foreign minister, said that his meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on May 20 focused on “pondering the restoration of peace.”

“The Holy See reaffirms, as it has always done, its willingness to aid a genuine negotiating process, seeing it as the just route to a fair and permanent resolution,” Gallagher said at a press conference following the meeting in the Ukrainian capital.

Gallagher arrived in Ukraine on May 18 for a visit that included stops in Bucha, Vorzel, and Irpin, settlements near Kyiv that suffered devastation under occupation by Russian troops.

In Bucha, the 68-year-old archbishop prayed at the site of a former mass grave and was shown photographs of the exhumation, remarking afterward: “This is truly a horror.”

“We are witnesses of this, of the sufferings and martyrdom of this country,” he told Vatican News, the Holy See’s online news portal.

In the press conference, the English archbishop said that his meeting with Kuleba and his visit to the three “most martyred cities” enabled him to “touch the wounds of the Ukrainian people and hear their passionate plea for peace.”

“My visit is intended to demonstrate the closeness of the Holy See and Pope Francis to the Ukrainian people, particularly in light of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine,” Gallagher said.

“And I assure you that both the Holy Father and his closest collaborators, including myself, suffer greatly from the many deaths, violence of all sorts, the devastation of cities and infrastructure, the separation of so many families, and the millions of displaced people and refugees.”

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Gallagher is the third papal envoy to travel to Ukraine at Pope Francis’ request. Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, brought an ambulance blessed and donated by the pope to Lviv, western Ukraine, in March. Cardinal Michael Czerny, the prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, made multiple visits to meet with refugees on the Ukrainian border.

According to Gallagher, his trip had been planned for some time to mark the 30th anniversary of the Holy See’s diplomatic ties with Ukraine. The archbishop’s first scheduled visit was postponed when he tested positive for COVID-19 last month.

In an interview with Vatican News published on May 20, Gallagher was asked how to achieve peace in Ukraine after it has seen so much suffering.

“Ukrainians will find peace among themselves, but the wounds are deep and it will take much, much longer to find peace with Russia, with the people who have been involved in this terrible conflict, in this war,” he replied.

“The wounds are deep: it is difficult to talk now about peace, about reconciliation, because in people’s hearts the suffering, the wounds are so deep that you have to give time. You have to give time, you have to let people talk, express even so many negative feelings towards others.”

“So you have to pray a lot, that the Lord, who is really the only salvation, will give us the grace to heal these wounds and that people can move on.”