Pope Francis has said that he’s willing to visit Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the country’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
In an interview with Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera published Tuesday, the pope said that nearly three weeks into the conflict, he asked a top Vatican official to send a message to the Russian leader.
“I wanted to make a clear gesture for the whole world to see and for this I went to the Russian ambassador,” Francis told the newspaper.
“I asked them to explain, I said ‘please stop.’ And then I asked Cardinal Parolin, after twenty days of war, to send Putin the message that I was willing to go to Moscow.”
The pope added that he recently spoke with Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church in a 40-minute Zoom call on the matter in March. Francis noted that Kirill used 20 minutes of the call to read from prepared notes justifying the Russian invasion.
Francis reportedly told Kirill in the Zoom call that he cannot turn into “Putin’s altar boy,” according to the newspaper.
“I listened and told him: I don’t understand anything about this. Brother, we are not clerics of state, we cannot use the language of politics, but that of Jesus. We are shepherds of the same holy people of God,” Francis said. “For this we must seek ways of peace, to put an end to the firing of weapons.”
Francis has called for peace in Europe amid the brutal invasion of Ukraine, which is now on its third month.
Francis has also called the killing of Ukrainian children “barbarianism.”
Putin announced in late February that Russian forces were a “special military operation” in Ukraine and has claimed, among other things, that Russia is engaging in the “denazification” of the former Soviet state.
The invasion has prompted an international response against Russia with both countries’ governments and private companies taking disciplinary measures following the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
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