The Slovenia Times

Ukraine high on agenda as president meets the pope

President Nataša Pirc Musar (left) talking to Pope Francis (right).
Photo: Vatican Media

President Nataša Pirc Musar met Pope Francis at the end of a busy four-day visit to Italy and the Vatican that she opened by meeting President Sergio Mattarella. Ukraine and calls for dialogue topped the agenda.

After her audience with the pope, the president pointed to the Holy See's role in the international community in promoting peace, dialogue and understanding among nations, as well as human rights.

"Slovenia always pays special attention to the initiatives and statements by Pope Francis," Pirc Musar said.

"We both want civilised dialogue and a culture of dialogue. We spent a while discussing this and the Holy Father is a great inspiration to me in this respect," the president added.

Pope willing to mediate for peace in Ukraine

Pirc Musar and the pope shared the view that Ukraine deserves help, peace and a life free of fear and devastation. They believe a lasting and fair peace acceptable to Ukraine must be achieved.

Pirc Musar pledged for Slovenia to continue to financially help Ukraine. "So far we have contributed €30 million and another million in the initiative Grain from Ukraine.

"We have increased our aid in a number of humanitarian programmes. Caritas Slovenia is one of our strategic partners, carrying out over 30 humanitarian and development projects. We also participate in support to mitigate poverty in Madagascar, where the missionary Pedro Opeka, who is of Slovenian descent, is active."

The president said the pope informed her he wished to perform and would accept with gratitude the potential role of a mediator between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"As I understand him, he will strive and make the maximum effort for this to happen," Pirc Musar said.

Climate change was also on the agenda. The president said that the pope was a close ally in environmental issues.

Pirc Musar also met with Pietro Parolin, the Holy See's secretary of state, telling him her door was always open for representatives of the Slovenian Roman Catholic Church.

Minority discussed with Mattarella

Meeting President Sergio Mattarella in Rome on 19 May, Pirc Musar spoke of the need to address the issue of the Slovenian minority's guaranteed representation in the Italian parliament.

She said that Mattarella "is aware of the importance of Slovenians getting permanent representation in the Senate". However, for this to happen, the Italian constitution would gave to be amended.

"I can assure you that he is a great friend of the Slovenian minority, a great friend of Slovenia," Pirc Musar said of her Italian counterpart.

Turning to reconciliation between Slovenia and Italy, she said "there have been many symbolic steps taken in the past decade to overcome the differences of the past".

"The president and I will work to ensure that the next steps will also be oriented towards a European future and cooperation. And ensuring guaranteed representation could certainly be one of those steps.

The presidents of Slovenia, Italy and Croatia have been invited by major associations of WWII fighters and antifascists in Slovenia, Italy and Croatia to visit the former concentration camp on the Croatian island of Rab on 10 September and pay respects to the victims.

"I think this step would be perhaps a bit too quick for Italy to take this year. But I'll be patient. I'm convinced that, together with Croatia, we will be able to jointly take this step in the future."

Migration, the war in Ukraine and the Western Balkans were also on their agenda. They called for an effective and balanced model of migration management and fight against illegal migration at the EU level.

Pirc Musar endorsed Mattarella's recent statement that "peace, for which we all work, must reflect justice and international law" and Mattarella welcomed Pirc Musar's call to help Western Balkan countries join the EU.

The presidents agreed to be the honorary sponsors of the European Capital of Culture, a project hosted by Slovenia's Nova Gorica and Italy's Gorizia in 2025.

In an incident that somewhat marred the friendly atmosphere, a group meeting in Trieste made Fascist salutes to commemorate an anniversary of the death of right-wing politician Almerigo Grilz.

Pirc Musar and the Slovenian Foreign Ministry condemned the incident. "The salutes we've seen in Trieste are a symbol of a time that has brought hatred, divisions, violence," Pirc Musar tweeted.


More from Politics