Pope Francis greets members of the Ukrainian army at the Vatican, May 2019
Remo Casilli / Reuters

The Holy See and the United States once had a close partnership. Under U.S. President Ronald Reagan, for instance, the CIA provided regular briefings to Pope John Paul II, as the Vatican coordinated with Washington to support democratic change in Poland. Those days are now over.

Nothing exemplifies the decline of this special relationship like Pope Francis’ diplomacy in Ukraine. In the last year, U.S.-Russian rivalries have played out in that country through the division between factions of the Orthodox Church. In the last year, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church decisively split from the Moscow patriarchate, with the explicit approval of the United States. Francis did not follow the U.S. lead and instead cautioned Ukrainian Catholics not to meddle in the Orthodox proxy war. The pope has used his relationships with important players on all sides of the dispute—including in Moscow—to calm nerves. He has

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