Polish president, Pope Francis discuss help for Ukraine

The Polish president on Friday met with Pope Francis at the Vatican and briefed the pontiff on Poland’s efforts to help refugees from Ukraine.

Andrzej Duda spoke to the Vatican leader privately for 30 minutes, Poland’s PAP news agency reported.

Afterwards, he was joined by First Lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda for another audience with the pope, according to officials.

The president described the conversation with the pontiff as “extremely important,” adding he had thanked Pope Francis for his “spiritual care,” for his prayers “for us and Ukraine,” and for his condemnation of the war.

“I briefed the Holy Father on the situation in our country amid the refugee crisis and how the Polish people are providing help,” Duda also told reporters.    

The president and the pope exchanged gifts, with Duda giving the pontiff a portrait of Poland’s Blessed Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, reporters were told.

He also offered records with modern performances of music by composer Fryderyk Chopin, among other presents, PAP reported.

In turn, Pope Francis gave the Polish president a souvenir medal bearing the image of St. Martin and a book about his historic prayer for the end of the pandemic, delivered on March 27, 2020 in St. Peter’s Square, officials said.

Duda later met with the Vatican’s Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, according to PAP.

Poland’s presidential couple also laid flowers at the grave of Saint John Paul II in St. Peter’s Basilica, ahead of Saturday’s 17th anniversary of the Polish-born pontiff’s death.

Duda was later due to hold talks with Gilbert F. Houngbo, head of the Rome-based United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development, on “the potential impact of the war in Ukraine on the availability and prices of food,” according to the Polish presidential office.

‘Coalition of women’ in support of Ukrainian refugees

Meanwhile, the Polish first lady was scheduled to hold a series of meetings, starting with a visit to the Bambino Gesu paediatric hospital in Rome. The facility is providing treatment for young cancer patients evacuated from war-torn Ukraine, according to Polish presidential aide Grażyna Ignaczak-Bandych.

Later, Kornhauser-Duda was due to be hosted by the daughter of the Italian president, Laura Mattarella. The meeting was part of the Polish first lady’s drive “to build a coalition of women in support of people fleeing the war, especially unwell children and people with disabilities,” Ignaczak-Bandych told reporter.

Friday is day 37 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Poland on Friday reported it had welcomed more than 2.4 million refugees fleeing Russia’s war on Ukraine.

The Polish president last month signed into law a measure to offer wide-ranging support to Ukrainians escaping the Russian invasion of their country, which began on February 24.

The measure grants them legal residence in Poland and ensures access to educationhealthcare and social benefits.

(pm/gs)

Source: IAR, PAP, vatican.va 

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