In 2011, Benedict XVI appointed him nuncio to Belarus. There, he was able to visit political prisoners, negotiating directly with President Aleksandr Lukashenko. This confidence in the Belarusian president came in handy at the end of 2020 when Pope Francis sent him to Belarus to speak with Lukashenko and negotiate the return of Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Minsk, who had gone abroad for a series of celebrations and was then prevented by authorities from returning to his homeland.
He had been unable to return home because — it was said — his passport had expired. Gugerotti succeeded in the mission, and Kondrusiewicz returned in time to celebrate Christmas, then left his place when he turned 75 on Jan. 3, 2021.
From 2015 to 2020, Gugerotti was nuncio to Ukraine. Unfortunately, he inherited a situation of conflict that arose following the Russian annexation of Crimea. Nevertheless, he was able to reach the conflict zones, even celebrating one Easter in the Donbas. In addition, he was among the coordinators of the “Pope for Ukraine” initiative. But, above all, he has consistently called for a Russian-Ukrainian reconciliation that goes beyond politics and political needs.
His ability to see competing perspectives is also due to his excellent knowledge of the Russian language and made him a candidate to hold the position of prefect of the Dicastery for the Oriental Churches.
Gugerotti’s positions on the war in Ukraine
To understand Archbishop Gugerotti’s diplomatic doctrine, one must reread his statements during the conflict in the Donbas region.
In December 2019, the Paris summit brought together Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, with French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron and then German Prime Minister Angela Merkel in the French capital.
Commenting on the results of that meeting, Gugerotti stressed that “Ukraine, in the conflict territories in the Donbas,” needs to live “a true experience of reconciliation; otherwise, there is no way out. So the situation is buffered, but an open-air cemetery is preserved.”
Even then, the nuncio said that the conflict represented “a situation of eternal precariousness. The bombing continues.” Gugerotti noted how this affected children and how it was difficult to find medicines and food, and to ensure heating.
In short, the nuncio decried the pathological precariousness of the situation.
Gugerotti also asked Europe to be less distracted, even just “for the moral commitment” it had, given that Ukraine had chosen European values: ”A choice that costs a lot in terms of human lives and a very high economic price.”
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Europe was involved, the nuncio said, because it had an ongoing conflict that put its borders at risk. But above all because — “and this must be said,” he added — some Western mercenaries were also fighting in the Donbas: Italians, Germans, French, and Americans.
The Italian prelate also said “the tragedy of this conflict is general forgetfulness.”
In April 2018, Archbishop Gugerotti issued an appeal to Europe.
“If Europe thinks of solving its problems by looking only at its internal issues, it will not only fail to solve them but will be crushed by external pressure,” he said.
“There is a conflict at the gates of Europe, but Europe is too busy with national problems and the difficulty of being together to notice,” Gugerotti said. “If international solidarity is not rediscovered as a means to reestablish a minimum of common law, to guarantee a minimum of justice and equity, not only will we not save ourselves, but we will let other people perish and then repent in the future for not having seen.”
Calls for reconciliation can be challenging to digest for people experiencing an invasion.