Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: Vatican’s diplomatic envoy remained in Kyiv as many ambassadors left town

The first flurry of diplomats decamped from Kyiv in mid-February, well before shells began slamming into and around the historic city. The next wave of embassies packed up and left Ukraine’s capital a few weeks later, when the war began in earnest, moving their operations west and away from the fighting. Through it all, the Vatican’s diplomatic mission stayed put. In recent weeks, with Russian troops in broad retreat from the region, dozens of embassies have reopened in the city or announced plans to return. The United States said this week it would reopens its embassy. Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, the Holy See’s ambassador to Ukraine, said that as long as there was a city standing, he would stay. Without the consular workload of a typical embassy or the political or economic interests of a secular state, the considerations were different for the nunciature, as the Vatican’s diplomatic mission is known. “Bishops and priests, they stay with the people. I stay with the people because it’s part of my identity,” he said in a phone interview. (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/30/world/europe/pope-francis-kyiv-ambassadors.html) For weeks, Archbishop Kulbokas and his staff of five — down from the embassy’s normal staffing of 11 — worked, ate, prayed and slept in a couple of rooms on the ground floor of the nunciature, a yellow-walled five-story building in the tree-lined Shevchenkivskyi district of Kyiv. His days have been filled fielding calls to coordinate humanitarian assistance, requests for help from within the country and offers of aid from Catholic organizations abroad, he said.

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