Written by Staff Writer
26 Nov, 2013 | 1:01 pm
Pope Francis and Russian President Vladimir Putin met on Monday and discussed the Middle East and problems faced by Christians across the world.
The 35-minute meeting at the Vatican was the first between Pope Francis and Putin, who met the pontiff’s two immediate predecessors, Benedict and John Paul II.
“It was quite a cordial and constructive meeting,” Vatican Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi had told reporters after the encounter. Putin had arrived around 45 minutes late because of transport problems.
Relations between the Catholic Church and Russia have long been uneasy because of accusations that the Vatican has tried to poach believers from the Orthodox Church, a charge it denies.
Putin brought a greeting to the pope from Patriarch Kirill, the Head of the Russian Orthodox Church, but did not talk about inter-church matters, Lombardi said. There was also no discussion of a possible visit to Russia by Pope Francis.
Putin has embraced the Russian Orthodox Church as a moral authority, harnessed its influence as a source of political support and championed socially conservative values since starting a new, six-year term in May 2012.
The two leaders discussed the civil war in Syria and the Pope stressed the need to end violence and bring assistance to the civilian population.
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