VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Ready for anything with a backpack full of essentials, the papal nuncio based in Kyiv, Ukraine, said he had no intention of leaving the country.
“We are not just an embassy,” Bishop Visvaldas Kulbokas told SIR, the Italian Catholic news agency, March 2.
“Here I represent the pope for Ukraine, but also for the people and for the Church in Ukraine,” he said, stressing the importance of being close to the people. “My place is here.”
“However, I always carry a backpack with me with the essentials – water, important papers, a mobile phone – to be ready for anything,” he added.
The 47-year-old Lithuanian Archbishop was appointed Apostolic Nuncio in June 2021. This is his first posting as a nuncio after joining the diplomatic service of the Holy See in 2004.
He has held various positions in the nunciatures of Lebanon, the Netherlands, the Russian Federation and Kenya. He also worked in the States Relations Section of the Vatican Secretariat of State and was an official translator when Pope Francis met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Vatican in 2019 and 2015.
Bishop Kulbokas said that many people had called him “and asked me to convey to the pope their immense gratitude for the attention, for the prayers and also for the attempts he made – not only diplomatic, but also human , as a pastor.
Asked about Pope Francis’ diplomatic efforts for peace and how they have been received, he told SIR that “the pope is certainly close to a suffering Ukraine, but he is close to everyone.”
“The Pope said that war must always be stopped, no reason can justify war. War is the work of the devil and therefore every effort should be made to stop it,” he said.
“We are all brothers and sisters, and the job of the church is to reconcile everyone. To sow not hatred but love, fraternity,” he said, asking everyone to join “this mission of condemnation of war and of spiritual union and peace with all.”
The nunciature is in a residential area of Kiev, he said, and he works with two other staff members and a community of nuns.
They managed to store plenty of provisions, but “certainly not enough for a long time”, he said. They have installed mattresses for sleeping in the basement and in other areas more protected from rocket fire and they celebrate mass “in a place that seems safer” than the chapel.
The Archbishop said that all Ukrainians – from different religions and Christian communities – came together in solidarity, offering each other assistance and prayers.
And, he said, all the prayers and spiritual support from other countries made it feel “like we were the spiritual capital of the world” where tragedy and “the beautiful response of humanity” face each other. .