Pope envoy had 'cordial' talks in China on Ukraine, Vatican says

FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis' envoy Cardinal Matteo Zuppi attends a mass in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Moscow

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis' envoy, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, had "open and cordial" talks in Beijing with a Chinese government official on the need to find ways to peace in Ukraine, the Vatican said on Thursday.

Meeting with Li Hui, China's Special Envoy for Eurasian Affairs, the Italian cardinal also addressed the issue of food security and blocked grain exports from Ukraine.

The meeting, which "took place in an open and cordial atmosphere, was dedicated to the war in Ukraine and its dramatic consequences", a statement said.

The two sides underlined "the need to combine efforts to encourage dialogue and find paths that lead to peace," the Vatican added.

Since Russian forces swept into Ukraine in February 2022, China has refrained from condemning its ally Moscow, although it has repeatedly called for a ceasefire and a political solution to the crisis.

Before his Beijing mission, Zuppi visited Kyiv and Moscow in June and Washington in July as part of the Holy See's so-far unsuccessful attempts to bring Ukraine and Russia closer to the negotiating table.

China's willingness to hold talks with the papal envoy has been seen as significant, given the difficult relations between Beijing and the Vatican.

The Vatican has bilateral relations with democratically governed Taiwan but not China, which claims the island as part of its territory. The Vatican is the only state in Europe to recognise Taipei.

Sino-Vatican ties have also been strained due to differences over the appointments of bishops in China. The Vatican complains that Beijing has named bishops unilaterally several times, violating a landmark 2018 pact.

(Reporting by Alvise Armellini, editing by Alexandra Hudson)