By Orowo Victoria Ojieh
Pope Francis has said that he asked for a meeting in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin towards ending the war in Ukraine but had not received a reply.
The 85-year-old Pontiff also told Italy’s Corriere Della Sera newspaper that Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church, who has given the war his full-throated backing, “cannot become Putin’s altar boy.”
He also disclosed that he had sent a message to Putin around 20 days into the conflict saying “that I was willing to go to Moscow.”
Francis, who made an unprecedented visit to the Russian embassy when the war started, said in the interview that about three weeks into the conflict, he asked the Vatican’s top diplomat to send a message to Putin.
The message was “that I was willing to go 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”. 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?”
Before the interview, the Pope had not specifically mentioned Russia or Putin publicly since the start of the conflict on Feb. 24. But he has left little doubt which side he has criticized, using terms such as unjustified aggression, invasion and lamenting atrocities against civilians.
When asked about a trip to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the head of the Roman Catholic Church said he would not be travelling to Ukraine anytime soon. “I’m not going to Kyiv for now. I feel I shouldn’t go. I have to go to Moscow first, I have to meet Putin first,” he said.