Russian President, Putin, To Meet Pope Francis | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Russian President, Putin, To Meet Pope Francis

Posted: Jun 10, 2015 at 9:23 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

RUSSIAN President, Vladimir Putin, is expected to raise the Ukraine crisis and the plight of Christians in the Middle East during a meeting with Pope Francis in Rome on Wednesday June 10, 2015.

This will be Putin’s second meeting with Pope Francis, and the latest episode in a long-running but sometimes fraught relationship between the Kremlin and The Vatican.

AFP reports that at Wednesday’s meeting, Putin and the Bishop of Rome will cover “specific international problems, in particular the situation in Ukraine with emphasis on inter-religious relations and the activities of the Ukrainian Greek Catholics,” Kremlin spokesman Yuri Ushakov told reporters on Tuesday.

Russian leaders traditionally visit the Pope during any visit to Italy, and Russian and Soviet leaders have maintained links since The Vatican since formal contacts were established between the Holy See and the Kremlin under Mikhail Gorbachev.

For the Kremlin, these meetings are an important source of “supplementary external legitimacy,” said Andrei Zolotov, a Russian journalist who specialises in religious affairs.

“That is particularly important for Moscow in the present political situation.”

During their last meeting in November 2013 the notoriously tardy Putin kept the Pope and his aides waiting for nearly an hour (the Kremlin blamed the delay on protesters outside Putin’s Rome hotel).

Putin’s team hailed that meeting as a success, and it raised hopes of a rapprochement between the Catholic and Russian Orthodox Church hierarchy.

But analysts say a mooted historic meeting between the Pope and Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, is now off the cards – largely thanks to the war in Ukraine.

To date, Pope Francis has avoided taking a strong line on the Ukraine crisis, confining himself to expression of dismay at a “war between Christians” and implicitly – but not specifically – condemning the annexation of Crimea by calling for respect for international law.