Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discussed the war in Ukraine during a private audience Monday with Pope Francis in the Vatican.
The pope was “very concerned” about the number of casualties — especially innocent civilians — that have occurred since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, said Col. Dave Butler, Gen. Milley’s spokesman.
Rome was a stop on the U.S. general’s itinerary of European countries. He has played a central role in securing military support for Ukraine from other NATO countries.
Gen. Milley, a practicing Catholic, was out of uniform during the audience with the Roman pontiff. He wore a simple black suit rather than an Army dress uniform covered in ribbons and decorations acquired over more than 40 years in the military.
He was in civvies during the audience because of diplomacy and Vatican protocol, Col. Butler said.
“There’s only one group that’s allowed to wear a uniform at the Vatican — the Swiss Guard,” he said.
The Swiss Guard is an armed military force that has been protecting the pope and the Apostolic Palace within the territory of Vatican City since 1506. In its ceremonial role, the guard wears a blue, red, orange and yellow striped dress uniform with a distinctly Renaissance appearance.
Gen. Milley knew he would have to bring a civilian suit for his meeting with Francis in his study, Col. Butler said.
“It was all part of the itinerary,” the colonel said. “We had visited the Vatican a couple of months ago and planned to visit with the pope, but he was unavailable.”