Pope Francis announced on the 2nd (local time) that he was considering visiting Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine under Russian invasion.
According to Reuters, the pope said to reporters, "Yes, he is considering a request from the Ukrainian political and religious community on a private plane bound for Malta, an island nation in the Mediterranean. It's on the table."
However, Reuters added that the Pope declined to comment on the details.
Earlier, Mayor Vitaly Klicico Kiu sent a letter to the Pope on the 8th of last month to express his intention to invite him.
Senior Archbishop Svyatoslav Shevchuk, who represents the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and the Ukrainian ambassador to the Vatican Andry Eurash also called for the Pope's visit in mid-February, when concerns of invasion were mounting.
In a telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on the 22nd of last month, the Pope emphasized the Vatican's efforts to mediate the end of the war, and Zelensky reportedly expressed his desire to invite the Pope.
The Pope stressed in a message on the 13th of last month that "the entire city should stop unacceptable armed aggression before turning into a graveyard," but did not mention whether to accept the invitation.
It is noteworthy that the pope expressed his intention to visit Ukraine in the face of growing concerns over civilian casualties and humanitarian crises as Russia invaded Ukraine for more than a month.
According to the U.N. Human Rights Office, Ukraine's civilian deaths and injuries reached at least 1,189 and 1,901 by the 29th of last month after Russia's invasion on February 24.
More than 4 million refugees have fled to foreign countries, and the remaining civilians in Ukraine, including the southern city of Mariupol, are suffering from a shortage of drinking water and food as well as a threat to their lives due to the Russian siege.
Meanwhile, the Pope will visit Malta on a two-day trip from two to three days. The Pope was originally scheduled to visit Malta in May 2020, but canceled the schedule in the aftermath of the novel coronavirus infection (COVID-19).
For health reasons, the Pope used the elevator instead of walking up when he got on and off the plane.
This is the first time Pope Francis has not walked on an overseas flight, and a Vatican official explained, "It is to avoid unnecessary burdens."
Reuters added that the pope suffered from sciatic neuralgia and seemed to have difficulties moving through the aisle on board that day.