The Pope has revealed that he asked for a face-to-face meeting with Vladimir Putin to try to make him see sense over his bloody war in Ukraine, but has so far been greeted by silence.
The 85-year-old pontiff told Italy’s Corriere Della Sera newspaper that he had communicated to Moscow via Vatican diplomats that he sought a meeting three weeks into the conflict.
Pope Francis previously met Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban two weeks ago and was told by the far-right leader – Putin’s principal ally in the EU – that ‘the Russians have a plan, that everything will end on May 9’, referring to the anniversary of the end of the Soviet Union’s involvement in World War II.
With that date coming early next week, Francis communicated to Putin that he was willing to make the trip to Moscow.
‘Certainly, it was necessary for the Kremlin leader to allow an opening. We have not yet received a response and we are still insisting,’ Francis 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 waves during Regina Caeli prayer, in Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Monday. The Pope has asked for a face-to-face meeting with Vladimir Putin to try to make him see sense over his bloody war in Ukraine, but has so far been greeted by silence
Russian President Vladimir Puint – reported to be suffering from cancer, Parkinson’s and ‘schizophrenic symptoms’ has so far snubbed ell entreaties from the Pope to discuss stopping the war
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban told Pope Francis two weeks that ‘the Russians have a plan, that everything will end on May 9’, referring to the anniversary of Russia’s liberation at the end of World War II
The Pope has walked a delicate tightrope over the conflict, condemning ‘unjustified aggression’ and lamenting atrocities against civilians, but has until now refrained from officially pointing the finger at Russia and Putin.
Asked about a trip to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, which Francis last month said was a possibility, the pope said he would not go for now.
‘First, I have to go to Moscow, first I have to meet Putin … I do what I can. If Putin would only open a door,’ he said.
Francis also appeared to suggest NATO was in part to blame for Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, which began when the Russian tyrant ordered his troops across his neighbour’s border on February 24.
He said that while he would not go as far to say that NATO’s presence in nearby countries such as Poland and the Balkans ‘provoked’ Russia, he said that the military alliance ‘perhaps facilitated’ the invasion by ‘barking’ as Putin’s door.
NATO and other countries supporting Ukraine have insisted that Moscow has been the aggressor, massing its troops on the border in the months before the invasion before launching its invasion of a sovereign country.
It has been reported on Russian Telegram channels that Putin is very sick with a triple whammy of cancer, Parkinson’s and ‘schizophrenic symptoms’, which might go some way to explaining his implacable bloodlust towards Ukraine.
Instead the head of the Catholic Church has been dealing with Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church, who is a full-blooded supporter of the violent conflict.
The war in Ukraine has strained relations between the two churches and caused a split among Orthodox Christians around the world.
Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church is a full-blooded supporter of the invasion of Ukraine
Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulate each other after the Easter service at the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow. Patrich Kirill hsa provided Putin with cover to prosecute his war in Ukraine
In the interview, Francis said that when he had a 40-minute video conference with Kirill on March 16, the patriarch spent half of it reading from a sheet of paper ‘with all the justifications for the war’.
Moscow describes its action in Ukraine as a ‘special operation’ to demilitarise and ‘denazify’ its neighbour.
Kirill, 75, sees the war as a bulwark against a decadent West – particularly over the acceptance of homosexuality – that threatens his vision of a ‘Russky Mir’ (‘Russian World’) that includes Belarus and Ukraine.
‘We (the pope and Kirill) are pastors of the same people of God. That is why we have to seek paths of peace, to cease the fire of weapons. The patriarch cannot become Putin’s altar boy,’ Francis was quoted as saying.
The pope also said that when he met Viktor Orban on April 21, the Hungarian prime minister told him ‘the Russian have a plan, that everything will end on May 9’, referring to the anniversary of Russia’s liberation at the end of World War II.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said the anniversary would have no bearing on Moscow’s military operations in Ukraine.