Pope Francis has expressed satisfaction that grain ships have been allowed to leave Ukrainian ports, saying the deal offers a sign of hope that a just and lasting peace can be found.
“I would like to welcome the departure from Ukraine’s ports of the first ships loaded with grain.”
Pope Francis made that remark on Sunday while speaking at the noon-day Angelus prayer.
Four bulk carrier ships set sail from Ukrainian Black Sea ports on Sunday, after the first ships left the port city of Odessa early last week following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.
The Pope said the deal charts the path forward toward peace.
“This step shows that it is possible to dialogue and achieve concrete results, which benefit everyone. Therefore, this event can be seen as a sign of hope, and I sincerely hope that, following this path, we can put an end to the fighting and arrive at a just and lasting peace.”
Turkey and the United Nations brokered a deal in July between Russia and Ukraine to allow the export of Ukrainian foodstuffs through the Black Sea.
The deal ended a months-long blockade of Ukrainian ports, which had led to soaring grain prices around the globe.
The UN had warned of possible outbreaks of famine in various places due to the lack of Ukrainian grain shipments.
Beforethe war, Ukraine and Russia together made up nearly a third of global wheat exports.
A Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) has been set up in Istanbul to oversee the shipping of Ukrainian grain, and is staffed by Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish, and UN personnel.
The four bulk carriers which left port on Sunday were carrying nearly 170,000 tons of corn and other foodstuffs, according to Ukraine’s sea ports authority.
Saturday marked the first time a foreign-flagged ship arrived in Ukraine to be loaded with grain since the outbreak of the war in February.
Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister said Sunday that the country hopes to soon be able to ship around 3 million tons of good each month.
“We are gradually moving on to larger volumes of work,” said Oleksandr Kubrakov on Facebook. “We plan to ensure the ability of the ports to handle at least 100 vessels per month in the near future.”