Pope says June meeting with Russian Orthodox leader is off

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Pope Francis has said he has dropped plans to meet in June with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin who has backed Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

Francis, who has several times implicitly criti-cised Russia and Putin over the war, told Argentine newspaper La Nacion in an interview that he regret-ted that the plan had to be “suspended” because Vatican diplomats advised that such a meeting “could lend itself to much confusion at this moment”.

In Moscow, the RIA news agency quoted Met-ropolitan Hilarion, a senior Russian Orthodox Church official, as saying the meeting was postponed because “the events of the last two months” would have created many difficulties in its preparation.

Reuters reported on April 11 that the Vatican was considering extending the pope’s trip to Lebanon on June 12-13 by a day so that he could meet with Kirill on June 14 in Jerusalem.

Kirill, 75, has given his full-throated blessing for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine since it began on Feb. 24, a position that has splintered the worldwide Orthodox Church and unleashed an internal rebellion that theologians and academics say is unprecedented.

Francis, 85, has used terms such as unjustified aggression and invasion in his public comments on the war, and has lamented atrocities against civilians.

Asked in the interview why he has never named Russia or Putin specifically, Francis was quoted as saying: “A pope never names a head of state, much less a country, which is superior to its head of state”.

Putin, a member of the Russian Orthodox Church, has described Moscow’s actions as a “spe-cial military operation” in Ukraine aimed at demili-tarising and “denazifying” the country. Moscow has denied targetting civilians

Francis has specifically rejected Russia’s terminology, calling it a war that has caused “rivers of blood”.

A Vatican source familiar with the planning for the Jerusalem stop said on Friday that it had been at an advanced stage, with even the location for the meeting with Kirill chosen..—Reuters

 

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