Genoa, Italy, Feb 18, 2022 / 08:55 am (CNA).
Pope Francis could meet the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in June or July, Russia’s ambassador to the Holy See said on Friday.
The Russian news agency Tass reported that Aleksandr Avdeyev made the comment on Feb. 18 at a Russian-Italian conference in Genoa.
“Preparations for a second meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill are underway now for around June-July,” he was quoted as saying. “The place hasn’t been chosen yet.”
Pope Francis met with Patriarch Kirill at Havana airport in Cuba on Feb. 12, 2016, in the first meeting between a pope and a Patriarch of Moscow.
The Russian Orthodox Church is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Church with an estimated 150 million members, accounting for more than half of the world’s Orthodox Christians.
Pope Francis has sought to strengthen Catholic-Orthodox ties since his election in 2013.
During his trip to Cyprus and Greece last December, he met with local Orthodox leaders. He apologized for the ways that Catholics have contributed to division with Orthodox Christians during a meeting with Ieronymos II, archbishop of Athens and All Greece.
The pope has formed a close bond with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the spiritual leader of the world’s estimated 300 million Orthodox Christians.
But the Russian Orthodox Church severed ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in 2018 after Bartholomew I confirmed that he intended to recognize the independence of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
In recent weeks, Pope Francis has repeatedly called for peace in Ukraine amid fears that Russia is planning a full-scale invasion.
The political and ecclesiastical situation in Ukraine would be likely to feature in talks between the pope and Patriarch Kirill.
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