Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala was received by Pope Francis at the Vatican on Thursday, with their meeting focusing on the current war in Ukraine. During their talk, the head of the Catholic Church praised Czechia’s support for Ukraine in its ongoing struggle against Russia.
During the meeting, which lasted an hour, Czechia’s prime minister also invited the pope to visit the Czech Republic in the near future.
“I had a wonderful experience. The audience with Pope Francis was a great honor for me,” Fiala wrote on Twitter after the meeting. “I very much appreciate the pope’s moral attitude and support for human rights, freedom of religion, and support for the oppressed,” he added.
The two leaders devoted part of the meeting to the issue of Russian aggression in Ukraine and the fate of Ukrainians, many of whom have found refuge in European countries, including the Czech Republic.
“The pope has expressed great support for the Ukrainian people and their fair struggle. I think it is important for us to think about the suffering of Ukrainians and help them with all the means we have,” the Czech prime minister said in the Vatican. According to him, the pope “is aware of the injustice of Russian aggression.”
Fiala, who also brought the pope a Ukrainian embroidered scarf with a dove of peace as a gift, recalled all the support which Czechia has and continues to provide to Ukraine in the humanitarian and military fields.
The prime minister also said he enjoyed the chance to have an audience with the pope from the perspective of a believer in the faith.
“I had the opportunity to talk to the Holy Father about my religious experiences and journey. We talked about my experience with the hidden church, the underground church structures during the communist era, and living Christianity. The pope was very interested in it,” Fiala said.
The entire Czech delegation, including Deputy Prime Minister Marian Jurečka and ODS Parliamentary Group Chairman Marek Benda, received a blessing at the end of the meeting. Following his audience with the pope, the Czech prime minister held talks with Vatican Secretary of State Pier Parolin. The main topic of conversation was Ukraine, but also the mutual relations between the Czech Republic and the Vatican.
The relations between Czechia and Vatican are good
“There has also been a desire to consolidate and further expand cooperation,” the Vatican said, with Fiala stating that the pope’s proposed visit to Ukraine, currently under consideration, would be important.
“In my opinion, the pope’s wish is to go to Ukraine, but there must be conditions for it, including his health,” Fiala said.
The Czech prime minister ended his visit to Rome and the Vatican at the Czech Papal College Nepomucenum. He spoke there with Czech compatriots and church leaders in the Vatican.
The last Czech prime minister to have the opportunity to speak in person with the pope was Bohuslav Sobotka in 2017. At that time, Francis received EU leaders who had been meeting for a summit in Rome.