Pope meets Putin; two leaders talk about Ukraine, Syria, Venezuela
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis welcomed Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Vatican July 4, and the two discussed the ongoing wars in Eastern Ukraine and in Syria, the Vatican said. Russia plays a major role in both conflicts.
At the end of the 55-minute private meeting, Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of the Vatican press office, issued a statement describing the discussions as “cordial.”
The pope and president, he said, “expressed their satisfaction at the development of bilateral relations,” which included the signing in Rome July 4 of a collaboration agreement between the Vatican’s Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital and pediatric hospitals in Russia.
Pope Francis and Putin “then turned their attention to various questions of relevance to the life of the Catholic Church in Russia,” Gisotti said, as well a discussion of “the ecological question and various themes relating to current international affairs, with particular reference to Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela,” where Russia has been supportive of embattled President Nicolas Maduro.
It was the third time Pope Francis and Putin have met at the Vatican. They met in November 2013 and again in June 2015. Putin arrived late for each of the meetings, including July 4 when he was an hour late.
When reporters entered the room after the two had met privately, Putin told the pope, “Thank you for the time you have dedicated to me.”
“It was a very substantive, interesting discussion,” he said.