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Pope says he wants to go to Moscow to meet Putin on Ukraine - paper

Pope says he wants to go to Moscow to meet Putin on Ukraine – paper

Pope Francis speaks during Regina Cayley’s Prayer, in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, May 1, 2022. Vatican Media / Handout via REUTERS / File Photo

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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis said in an interview published on Tuesday that he had requested a meeting in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin to try to stop the war in Ukraine, but received no response.

The Pope also told Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper that Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church, who had given his full support for the war, “could not become a boy at Putin’s altar.”

Francis, who made an unprecedented visit to the Russian embassy when the war began, told the newspaper that after about three weeks of conflict, he asked the Vatican’s top diplomat to send a letter to Putin.

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The message was “that I was ready to go to Moscow. Certainly, it was necessary for the Kremlin leader to allow the opening. We have not yet received a response and are still victorious.”

“I’m afraid that Putin cannot and does not want to hold this meeting at this time. But how can you not stop such brutality? Twenty-five years ago in Rwanda we lived the same,” he was quoted as saying. She appears to equate the murders in Ukraine with the genocide in the African nation in 1994.

Prior to the interview, Francis, 85, had not specifically mentioned Russia or Putin publicly since the conflict began on February 24. But he left no doubt as to which side he criticized, using terms such as unprovoked aggression, conquest, and appalling atrocities. against civilians.

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When asked about a trip to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, which the Pope said last month was a possibility, the pope said he would not go for the time being.

“First, I have to go to Moscow, first I have to meet Putin…I do what I can. If Putin will only open the door,” he said.

The war in Ukraine strained relations between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church, and caused a split among Orthodox Christians around the world.

Reuters reported on April 11 that the Vatican is considering extending the Pope’s trip to Lebanon on June 12-13 for one day so that he can meet Kirill on June 14 in Jerusalem. Read more but Francis later decided against it.

In the interview, Francis said that when he held a 40-minute video conference with Kirill on March 16, the patriarch spent half of it reading from a paper “with all the justifications for war.”

Moscow describes its work in Ukraine as a “special operation” to disarm and “discredit” its neighbor. Kirill, 75, sees the war as a bulwark against the West which he views as decadent, particularly over the acceptance of homosexuality.

“We (the Pope and Kirill) are priests of the same people of God,” Francis was quoted as saying. “That is why we have to look for ways of peace for a cease-fire. The patriarch cannot become the boy of Putin’s altar.”

The Pope also said that when he met Viktor Orban on April 21, the Hungarian prime minister told him that “the Russians have a plan, that everything will be over on May 9,” referring to the anniversary of Russia’s liberation at the end of World War II. .

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the anniversary would not have an impact on Moscow’s military operations in Ukraine. Read more

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(Reporting by Francesca Pescionieri and Philip Pullella) Editing by Jacqueline Wong, Nick McPhee and Ed Osmond

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