By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
VATICAN CITY (Worthy News) – Pope Francis has canceled a summit with the leader of Russia’s Orthodox Church amid diplomatic wrangling over the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Worthy News learned.
The meeting between the pope and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Krill was due to happen in Jerusalem, Israel, on June 12 during the pope’s trip to neighboring Lebanon.
“I regret that the Vatican has had to cancel a second meeting with Patriarch Kirill,” Pope Francis said in the interview published in the Argentine newspaper La Nacion (The Nation).
Pope Francis said his relationship with Kirill is “very good,” but “our diplomacy understood that a meeting of the two of us at this time could cause a lot of confusion.”
He met with Patriarch Kirill at Havana’s airport on February 12, 2016, in the first summit between a pope and a Patriarch of Moscow.
The Russian Orthodox Church is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Church with an estimated 150 million members, more than half of the world’s Orthodox Christians.
Pope Francis has sought to strengthen Catholic-Orthodox ties since his election in 2013, the Catholic News Agency said.
Ioann Burdin, the priest of a small village in central Russia, began his first sermon since the outbreak of war with a promise to pray for the people of Ukraine and an end to their suffering.
But the pope suggested that these efforts have been complicated by the Russian Orthodox Church supporting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.
Ioann Burdin, the priest of a village in central Russia, was even banned from celebrating mass after praying for an “end to the suffering of people in Ukraine” during a sermon.
In the La Nacion interview, the pope also defended his decision not to name Putin or Russia in his comments on the Ukraine war.
Pope Francis had been criticized for not calling out Russia or Putin by name in his speeches since the invasion. “A pope never names a head of state, much less a country, which is superior to its head of state,” he said.
His remarks came amid ongoing Vatican diplomacy to help end the war, several sources confirmed to Worthy News. La Nacion quoted two cardinals saying “much of the war may be over by early May,” though Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the war could last until the end of 2023.
In the interview, the pope confirmed he took the unprecedented step of personally visiting the Russian embassy in Rome, which involved a short drive in a small white car. “I didn’t want anyone to accompany me. It was my responsibility. I made a decision on a vigil night thinking about Ukraine,” he told the paper.
Francis had assured a top Ukrainian Greek Catholic leader he would do “everything I can” to help.
Usually, popes receive ambassadors and heads of state in the Vatican, and diplomatic protocol would have called for the Vatican foreign minister to summon the Russian ambassador.
Francis is the Vatican head of state, and for him to leave the walled city-state and travel a short distance to the Russian Embassy was seen as a sign of his anger at Moscow’s invasion. Vatican officials said they knew of no similar papal initiative in the past.
He also made it a point to personally appeal for an end to Europe’s most significant conflict since World War Two. The February 25 embassy trip was to “point to the government that it can end the war in the next moment. To be honest, I would like to do something so that there is not one more death in Ukraine. Not one more. And I am willing to do everything to reach that,” Francis added.
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