ISSN 2330-717X

Pope Francis Offers To Meet With Putin In Moscow

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(RFE/RL) — Pope Francis said in an interview published on May 3 that he has asked for a meeting in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin to try to stop the war in Ukraine but had not received a reply.

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The pontiff also told the Italian daily Corriere Della Sera that Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church, who has given the war his backing, “cannot become Putin’s altar boy.”

Francis told the newspaper that about three weeks into the war, he asked the Vatican’s top diplomat to send a message to Putin about setting up a meeting.

“We have not yet received a response and we are still insisting,” the pope said.

He added: “I fear that Putin cannot, and does not, want to have this meeting at this time. But how can you not stop so much brutality?”

Pope Francis also expressed skepticism that Kirill could help him convince Putin to back a cease-fire. The pontiff said that during a recent video call with the patriarch, Kirill held a map and made arguments justifying Russia’s war against Ukraine.

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He said he told Kirill: “Brother, we are not government officials. We cannot use the language of politics, only the language of Jesus. To do this, we must seek the ways of peace.”

Since the beginning of the war, Kirill has made a number of statements in solidarity with the policy of the Russian authorities. In particular, he said that a “metaphysical” struggle was going on in the Donbas, tying it to the residents of Donetsk not wanting to hold gay parades.

More than 150 Russian Orthodox clerics called for a stop to war in an open letter on March 1. Kirill was not among those who signed it.

In the interview with the Italian newspaper, Francis also said that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban had told him that Putin planned to end the war on May 9, which Russia celebrates as Victory Day, marking Nazi Germany’s surrender in 1945.

The 85-year-old pontiff made an unprecedented visit to the Russian Embassy in Rome when the war started.

RFE RL

RFE/RL journalists report the news in 21 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established.

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