Pope Francis told the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church not to be "Putin's altar boy" and defend the Russian president's invasion of Ukraine.
Pope Francis told an Italian Newspaper "Corriere Della Sera" in an exclusive interview that he still awaits a response from Russia's president and fears that he doesn't want to meet at this time. He told the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, "A Patriarch can't lower himself to become Putin's altar boy."
Despite having terrible knee pain, his main worry at the moment was the death and destruction happening in the heart of Europe as the Russian armed forces invaded Ukraine. The pope continued with his plea, "In the name of God, stop this war." When asked if he would visit Kyiv, he said he wasn't compelled to go to Ukraine at this moment. His main priority was to travel to Moscow and meet Putin.
"In the end, I am just a priest, what can I possibly achieve? I'll do what I can," the Pope said.
He spoke with Kirill for 40 minutes on Zoom in the hope that perhaps the Patriarch could lead to the reconciliation of the countries. However, for the first twenty minutes, the Patriarch read a piece of paper containing all the reasons justifying the Russian invasion.
He said that he listened to him and replied that he doesn't understand any of the things he read. He told him that they were not the State clerics, so they shouldn't speak the language of politics, but the language of Jesus. As shepherds of the same flock, the pope urged the Russian Patriarch to look for a path to peace.
Patriarch Kirill to Pope Francis: 'Avoid Further Escalation'
In a release, The Russian Orthodox Church regretted how Pope Francis "chose the wrong tone to convey the content of this conversation." They warned that such statements could not push through a "constructive dialogue" between the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches.
According to them, the Patriarch would like to share his perception regarding the ongoing difficult situation, as the two leaders differ in informational expanses. He said that Western media "remained silent" or say a few facts on things he would like to present to the Pope.
Since the war started in 2014 between the two countries, he reminded the Pope that "promises were not kept" about NATO's expansion after the end of the Soviet era. They wrote, "Had NATO received Ukraine into its membership, then the time it would take for a rocket to reach Moscow would also be a few minutes. Russia could not and cannot permit this."
The Patriarch emphasized that the situation also caused him "great pain." His churches on both sides conflicted and said that part of the opposing side are also Catholics. Setting aside the geopolitical aspect, the Patriarch said in establishing peace and justice, "It is very important in these conditions to avoid further escalation."
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