VATICAN CITY, May 14 (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked Pope Francis on Saturday (May 13) to back Kyiv's peace plan, and the pope indicated the Vatican would help in the repatriation of Ukrainian children taken by Russians.

"It is a great honour," Zelenskyy told Francis, putting his hand to his heart and bowing his head as he greeted the 86-year-old pope, who stood with a cane.

Earlier on Saturday, Zelenskyy met Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who promised full military and financial backing for Ukraine and reiterated support for its EU membership bid.

Zelenskyy, who was visiting Rome for the first time since the war began, spoke with the pope for 40 minutes and presented him with a bulletproof vest that had been used by a Ukrainian soldier and later painted with an image of the Madonna.

A Vatican statement said that in their private talks, Zelenskyy and the pope discussed "humanitarian gestures", which a Vatican source said was a reference to the Vatican's willingness to help with the repatriation of Ukrainian children.

Kyiv estimates nearly 19,500 children have been taken to Russia or Russian-occupied Crimea since February 2022, in what it condemns as illegal deportations.