From Holy See Press Office director Matteo Bruni: “In coming days, at the request of Pope Francis, His Eminence Cardinal Michael Czerny will depart again for Ukraine to show the closeness of the Holy Father to those who are suffering the consequences of the war in progress. The cardinal will arrive in Slovakia on Wednesday, March 16, and go to the Ukrainian border in following days. Pope Francis is following this mission with prayer, like those of the past few days, and, through His Eminence, he wishes to be close to those fleeing the fighting and suffering from the violence of other men.”


Popes receive many visitors on a daily basis: members of the Roman Curia, heads of State and government, apostolic nuncios (the papal ambassadors), cardinals and bishops, ambassadors presenting their credentials or Letters of Credence as they start their assignment, ambassadors on farewell visits and many individuals and groups that request a papal audience.

Those of us covering the Vatican will often try to read something into the list of people a Pope received. Often there is nothing to read into it as, for example, the weekly scheduled audiences the Pope has with ranking members of the Roman Curia, heads of congregations, etc

Today’s list of private audiences for Pope Francis seemed interesting: among those he received was Bishop-elect Christian Carlassare, M.C.C.J., of Rumbek, South Sudan, Eduard Heger, prime minister of the Republic of Slovakia and Edgars Rinkēvičs, foreign minister of the Republic of Latvia.

As we know, the Pope has a trip to South Sudan scheduled for July 5 to 7. His meeting with the Italian-born bishop-elect of Rumbek takes on a special significance because the Pope had named Msgr. Carlassare as bishop in March 2021 but he was shot in both legs last April, well before he could be ordained. After a year of treatment and therapy, he will now be ordained March 25 in Rumbek’s cathedral.

Father Carlassare was injured in what was believed to be a shooting linked to tribal feuds between the Nuers and Dinkas. He had worked closely for a decade with members of the Nuer tribe but the Dinka tribe, closely linked to the Rumbek diocese, had its own idea of who should have been appointed bishop. That person, Fr. John Mathiang, is one of the accused.

Francis also welcomed today the prime minister of Slovakia, a nation the Pope visited last September. Shortly after the Vatican released the list of audiences, journalists received the note stating that Cardinal Czerny, at the Pope’s request, will travel to Slovakia and will return to Ukraine. (vatican media photo)

A Vatican new story on this meeting said, “The two leaders recalled the Pope’s Apostolic Journey to Slovakia in September 2021, and expressed their appreciation for the “good bilateral relations and the role of the Church in society.” The Pope and the Prime Minister also discussed the war in Ukraine “in depth”, along with “its impact on the regional and international level.” Pope Francis and Mr. Heger gave particular attention to the “humanitarian situation and the reception of war refugees.”

Another interesting guest today at the Vatican was Edgars Rinkēvičs, foreign minister of the Republic of Latvia. Latvia, together with Estonia and Lithuania, are the three Baltic nations that it is said Russian President Putin would like to bring back into the Russian Federation, removing their status as sovereign nations as he is attempting to do Ukraine with his invasion of that sovereign state. Will Latvia’s foreign minister have some information for Pope Francis that might have a bearing on the current war in Ukraine. (As I write, there has not been a press office or Vatican news report on this visit)