Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, Archbishop of Bologna and President of the Italian Bishops' Conference, has started the Ukraine peace mission. His mission was acknowledged by Russia government, around two weeks after Pope Francis officially entrusted Cardinal Matteo Zuppi with Ukraine peace mission as Vatican Holy See tries to help ease the tensions in the conflict in Ukraine. Cardinal Matteo Zuppi has a long experience in conflict resolutions, especially in Africa. a member of the Community of Sant’Egidio, in helping broker a peace agreement that ended the 17-year civil war in Mozambique in 1992. He also facilitated the peace processes negotiations in Rome, between 2007 and 2009, of what is known as the Kisangani Process, a series of negotiations between the government of Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the leaders of the Rwandan opposition organization, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), composed of Rally for Unity and Democracy (RUD-Urunana) and Rally of the Rwandan People (RPR).
On May 20, 2023, The Holy See Press Office confirmed that Pope Francis entrusted Cardinal Matteo Zuppi with a mission to help ease the tensions in the Ukraine conflict. Based on the statement on his appointment, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi will be leading the mission to initiate the paths of peace in Ukraine.
Based on media reports, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi is expected to soon meet separately with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In a statement released on May 20, 2023, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, confirmed that Pope Francis's nomination ofCardinal Matteo Zuppi and confirmed to the media saying that he "can confirm that Pope Francis has entrusted Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, Archbishop of Bologna and President of the Italian Bishops' Conference, with the responsibility of leading a mission, in agreement with the Secretariat of State, that contributes to an easing of tensions in the Ukraine conflict, in the hopes that this can initiate paths of peace, something never abandoned by the Holy Father."
Cardinal Matteo Zuppi's appointment by Pope Francis coincided with the G7 meeting in Hiroshima, Japan durring which the world powers reinforced their support for Ukraine.
Cardinal Matteo Zuppi has a long experience in conflict resolutions, especially in Africa, including Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwandan National Democratic Congress (NDC).
As a leader of the Community of Sant’Egidio, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi helped broker a peace agreement that ended the 17-year civil war in Mozambique in 1992. In the Mozambique Peace Accord, he was the chief negotiator representing the Sant'Egidion Community. He had taken over from the Christian Council of Mozambique (Council of Protestant Churches) and brokered the peace that ended the civil war in October 1992.
But there are many more peace processes he mediated, including negotiations in Rome, between 2007 and 2009 of what is known as the Kisangani Process. The Kisangani process was a series of negotiations between the government of Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the leaders of the Rwandan opposition organization, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), composed of Rally for Unity and Democracy (RUD-Urunana) and Rally of the Rwandan People (RPR). Msgr Matteo Zuppi worked closely with top NDC political and military leaders in Rome, led by Dr Felicien Kanyamibwa, over weeks of difficult negotiations among the Democratic Government, NDC and observers. (See National Democratic Congress).
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Under the mediation of then Msgr Matteo Zuppi, the Rome Peace Agreement and Roadmap signed by Dr. Felicien Kanyamibwa and the representatives of the DRC Government. The Peace Agreement and Roadmap was backed and cosigned on May 28, 2008 as the Kisangani Process by the European Union, the World Bank, Southern African Development Community (SADC), United Nations Peace Keeping Mission in DRC (MONUSCO), OCHA, UNHCR, South-Africa government, SIK-Norway, and the Eglise du Christ au Congo (ECC), the DRC government and NDC leadership agreed to a disarmament process of the armed wing of the two political groups.
The disarmed combatants and their dependent were gathered in a camp in Kasiki, Lubero Territory, in North Kivu Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo, in late May 2008, and started preparations to be repatriated to Rwanda or resettled in other countries or away from the border. An official ceremony of the disarmament was held in Kasiki, Lubero, on July 31, 2008 and attended by leaders of governments and institutions that supported the Rome-Kisangani Peace Process and Roadmap and Congolese traditional leaders. However, a few months later, in 2009, the troops of Rwandan government, which was opposed to the peace process, attacked the refugee camp. Rwandan government troops, with the approval of DRC President Joseph Kabila, crossed into DRC and attacked the camp of disarmed combattants and their dependents, including women, children and elderly, killing most of them. The massacres of the RUD and RPR disarmed combattants and their dependents by Rwandan government troops led to the collapse of the process.
Cardinal Matteo Zuppi's Unabated Commitment to Peace Mediation
Despite the setback, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi has continued his peace mediation initiatives.
Using his leadership at the Sant'Egidio Community and later as Archbishop and Cardinal, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi has, undoubtedly, cultivated a sense of dialogue and a constant search of harmony and common ground among opposing sides. After three years as the auxiliary bishop of Rome, at the end of 2015, Msgr Matteo Zuppi was appointed by Pope Francis as the head of one of the most important Italian diocese, once led by prominent cardinals, from Giacomo Lercaro, the most important figure of the Second Vatican Council and Carlo Caffarra, who had died recently.
In April 2017 in Bayonne, France, he mediated the disarmament of ETA, the Basque separatist organization, ending a 40-year old conflict that has killed more than 800 people since ETA's attempt to seek its own Basque state under Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. Commenting on the attendance the Catholic community of Sant'Egidio said that Archbishop of Bologna, Matteo Zuppi was a "moral witness,..., known for having participated in several international reconciliation processes."
Maybe, it is this, and especially his humility, dedication, and connection with people, especially the voiceless, the poor and the meek, that Pope Francis has consistently showed such confidence in Cardinal Matteo Zuppi.
Cardinal Matteo Zuppi has been considered one of the leading candidates to succeed Pope Francis.
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