VATICAN CITY (REUTERS) - The Vatican said on Monday (Feb 28) that it was ready to "facilitate dialogue" between Russia and Ukraine to end the war, and called for an immediate stop to the "military attack".
Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who ranks second only to the Pope in the Vatican hierarchy, told Italian newspapers that "despite the war unleashed by Russia against Ukraine", he was "convinced there is always room for negotiations".
Ukraine's Ambassador to the Vatican, Mr Andriy Yurash, said in an interview on Feb 14 that Kyiv was open to a Vatican mediation of its conflict with Russia, calling the Vatican a "very influential, very spiritual place for a meeting".
Mr Parolin, the Vatican's top diplomat, told Italian newspapers that dialogue was the only "reasonable and constructive" way to work out differences.
"The Holy See, which in these years has followed events in Ukraine constantly, discreetly and with great attention, offering to facilitate dialogue with Russia, is always ready to help both sides resume such a path," he said, according to a transcript on the official Vatican News website.
"Above all, the military attack must stop immediately. We are all witnesses to its tragic consequences."
Mr Parolin suggested that this is what Pope Francis told the Russian ambassador when he made a surprise visit to the Russian embassy to the Vatican on Friday, in an unprecedented departure from diplomatic protocol.
Mr Parolin said the world was witnessing events similar to those that preceded the start of World War II - an apparent reference to Germany's invasion of Poland in 1939.
Pope Francis on Sunday made an impassioned call for humanitarian corridors to help refugees leave Ukraine and said those who make war should not be deluded into thinking that God is on their side.