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Pope Francis discusses Ukraine war with Russian Orthodox leader

CNA Staff   By CNA Staff

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and Pope Francis at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana Feb. 12, 2016. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Moscow, Russia, Mar 16, 2022 / 09:52 am (CNA).

Pope Francis discussed the Ukraine war on Wednesday with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The pope and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia addressed the conflict during a video conference call on March 16.

The conversation, which took place in the early afternoon Rome time, was first reported by the Patriarchate of Moscow and later confirmed by the Holy See press office.

“The conversation centered on the war in Ukraine and the role of Christians and their pastors in doing everything to ensure that peace prevails,” the press office said.

The Vatican noted that the pope thanked Patriarch Kirill for the meeting and agreed with him that “the Church must not use the language of politics, but the language of Jesus.”

“We are shepherds of the same Holy People who believe in God, in the Holy Trinity, in the Holy Mother of God: that is why we must unite in the effort to help peace, to help those who suffer, to seek ways of peace, to stop the shooting,” the press office quoted Pope Francis as saying.

It added that the two leaders agreed on the importance of current negotiations to end the war.

“Those who pay the bill for the war are the people, it is the Russian soldiers and it is the people who are bombed and die,” the pope said.

“As pastors,” he continued, “we have a duty to stay close and help all the people who are suffering from the war. There was a time when even in our Churches we talked about holy war or just war. Today we cannot speak like that. The Christian conscience of the importance of peace has developed.”

The Holy See press office said that the pope agreed with Patriarch Kirill’s observation that the Churches must help to build peace and justice.

Pope Francis concluded: “Wars are always unjust. For the one who pays is the people of God. Our hearts cannot help but weep before the children, the women killed, all the victims of war. War is never the way. The Spirit that unites us asks us as pastors to help the peoples who suffer from war.”

Giving its account of the discussion, the Russian Orthodox Church’s Department for External Church Relations (DECR) said that the talks included “a detailed discussion of the situation on Ukrainian soil.”

“Special attention was paid to the humanitarian aspects of the current crisis and the actions of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church to overcome its consequences,” it said.

“The parties stressed the utmost importance of the ongoing negotiation process, expressing the hope that a just peace would be achieved as soon as possible.”

The DECR said that its chairman Metropolitan Hilarion and Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, also participated in Wednesday’s discussion.

“Pope Francis and His Holiness Patriarch Kirill also discussed a number of current issues of bilateral interaction,” the DECR said.

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 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.

Hopes of a second encounter rose at the end of 2021, when the pope received Metropolitan Hilarion at the Vatican.

Patriarch Kirill has received appeals from Catholic bishops across Europe to speak out against the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, launched on Feb. 24.

Among those who have called on him to intervene to end the war are Poland’s Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, Germany’s Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the Irish bishops, and Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE).

Pope Francis has sought to strengthen Catholic-Orthodox ties since his election in 2013.

He 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.

Pope Francis announced on Tuesday that he will consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord.

This report was updated at 11:20 a.m. MDT to include the Vatican’s confirmation of the discussion.

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  1. It is good that they met over the suffering caused by the Ukraine invasion. Schisms are best solved when men turn to the Lord for counsel.

    Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths

    Isaiah 25:8 He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.

    Proverbs 27:17 As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

    Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!

    Lord Jesus walk with us so as we stumble you lift us up.

  2. Hmmm. Did their ‘bilateral interaction’ include a game of Tiddlywinks? The world goes on, little knowing and not at all caring what either ‘leader’ thinks or said.

  3. OOPS. My earlier comment failed to reference Joe Bukuras’ report in CWR: “Three hurt when Catholic charity’s van struck by artillery fire in Ukraine”

  4. Unfortunately, Patriarch Kirill is on the side of the war criminal Putin; and Putin is the singular reason for the war and the killings in Ukraine that include innocent families, women and children. When Russian bombs target residential buildings and hospitals, then those involved in whatever capacity, ie., by being actively engaged in the war or by supporting it, become criminals.

  5. ‘Bright as the sun, fair as the moon, terrible as an army set in battle array ..’ –
    the above image of the little shared chuckle of the Brothers 🙂 , ? an occasion of the Holy Spirit recalling in their memory , their own boyhood innocent devotion to The Mother ..memories of hearing about Fatima .. the irony of both being brought to a historical island that was under communism , to help bring forth good will , in the blessing of many who suffered under the rebellion , to hear the whispering –
    ‘ do not be afraid ‘ …
    even as the world screams the opposite – to be afraid of life and of holiness ..

    Rereading the accounts of the Fatima apparition can be an occasion of being more appreciative of the ongoing work the Bl.Mother does in many hearts , a glimpse of the suffering of the Holy Popes in trying to carry out their related roles, amidst all the misunderstandings ,the mountains of prideful divisions , accusations of being negligent etc : etc : .
    Yet , they have The Mother as the model , in doing God’s Will , in gentle , patient steps as at Fatima , calling The Church to echo Her Heart to invite all, to instill more trust that All the Bishops of the world – of Germany too can join , at the heart level at the least for now .. to help do away with the spirit of apostacy and rebellion that manifest in myriad ways .. for the ‘children ‘ all over too to chuckle
    as in those Irish smiles .. both the born and to be born , blessed to be in ‘snake free ‘ lands amidst saintly lives .

  6. The Pontiff Francis, in his recent Havana Accord with Kirill, joined his voice with Kirill in expressing mutual contempt for Eastern Rite Catholics in Ukraine, who they labelled with the contemptuous title “Uniates” (a term of derision deliberately used by Kirill and Pontiff Francis).

    In their eyes, the Eastern Rite Catholics in Ukraine are to be condemned because they want to preserve their Eastern Christian liturgy and theology and culture, while pledging to be in communion with the Pope in Rome, apparently to signal the importance to them of unified teaching authority on faith and morality.

    Kirill and Pontiff Francis signed their Havana Accord to show their contempt for the desires of Ukrainian Catholics.

    Fr. Richard Kiley and Damian Thompson of England discuss this gesture of their contempt in a podcast this month, which I will post in my next comment.

    This Havana Accord reveals what matters to men of the ilk of Kirill and Pontiff Francis: Christians are not to be united, but is to remain divided, with the Body of Christ dismembered, and the pieces remaining in their personal control.

  7. Whatever we may assume regarding Russian Patriarch Kirill, his support of Putin is a form of indebtedness for Vladimir’s revival of Russian Orthodoxy from the ash heaps of Stalinist policy. Kirill was a friend of Benedict XVI, the two had an affinity. Although, there’s the issue of justice.
    The dogs of war are snarling, bearing their fangs, prepared to leap if the provocation that usually triggers world conflict appears. For Austria Hungary it was Serbia’s presumed unwillingness to assume responsibility for the assassination. An excerpt of Franz Josef’s ultimatum gives a sense of the stakes,
    “Serbia recognizes that the fait accompli regarding Bosnia has not affected her rights and consequently she will conform to the decisions that the Powers may take in conformity with Article 25 of the Treaty of Berlin. In deference to the advice of the Great Powers, Serbia undertakes to renounce from now onwards the attitude of protest and opposition which she has adopted with regard to the annexation since last autumn. She undertakes, moreover, to modify the direction of her policy with regard to Austria-Hungary and to live in future on good neighbourly terms with the latter. The history of recent years, and in particular the painful events of the 28th of June last, have shown the existence of a subversive movement with the object of detaching a part of the territories of Austria-Hungary from the Monarchy. The movement, which had its birth under the eye of the Serbian Government, has gone so far as to make itself manifest on both sides of the Serbian frontier in the shape of acts of terrorism and a series of outrages and murders”.
    Franz Josef’s demands assumed Serbia’s responsibility for assassination, based on Serbia’s intent to detach the South Slavic territories from Austria Hungary. In comparison during recent negotiations with Ukraine Russia suggested a Sweden form of neutrality, Ukraine permitted to retain its government and its military.
    The difference is stark. Nonetheless, the media, pundits, political analysts, virtually everyone [perhaps except for media’s Tucker Carlson] insist we increase armament transfer to Ukraine including first line offensive weapons, to “win the war against Russia”. A seeming impossible expectation unless the world does everything short of sending in its own military.
    If this increasing momentum continues, the insistence on providing everything possible growing in virtual rabid fervor will increase the longevity of the war, increase markedly the military casualties on both sides, and increase in far greater proportion the death toll and misery of Ukrainians. Perhaps, result in nuclear conflict [Russia has a measured tactical nuclear capacity, Putin has placed his nuclear systems on high alert] and if applied in Ukraine might erupt into full scale world nuclear war.
    This policy of abeyance to a negotiated settlement, and the determination for a Ukraine victory is irrational, and immoral.

    • So what you suggest is that the west should not arm the Ukrainians who should allow Russia to take over their country. Agreed that this would save many lives etc but what would happen next? The idea that Ukrainian sovereignty would be preserved in any negotiation with Putin’s regime is illusory. And who would be next to suffer from Russian Imperialism? Moldovia, Georgia, Finland, Sweden and then the rest of Europe. It seems that Ukrainians are prepared to die for their independence from a totalitarian state? Is that wrong? Any more that somebody who is prepared to die for their faith? And given the desires of the Ukrainians should the West just stand by and let Ukraine be destroyed or are they wrong in providing arms to the Ukrainians to defend themselves?

      Personal pacifism may be admirable but doing nothing whilst one’s neighbour attacked by criminal is hardlyshowing love to that neighbour.

  8. It could be that Kirill is a Russian first and then a Christian, however, let us pray that Pope Francis could get Kirill to see things differently.

    • Patriarch Kirill expresses beliefs similar to Benedict of the moral collapse of the West evident in W Europe. His ‘stated position’ is that he supports Vladimir’s opposition to Western [decadent] influence pressing eastward. That needless to say doesn’t justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Robert Royal in response to Francis’ visit hoped he [the pope] would elicit a reproval of the invasion, although he seemed to realize that doesn’t seem likely.
      The best we can hope for is a Ukraine Russia agreement on the latest proposal that Ukraine adopt a Sweden type neutrality Putin agrees Ukraine retain its independent government and its military. The rest hinges on the status of Crimea [Putin seeks Ukraine’s acquiescence of Russia annexation] and the eastern minor provinces that previously declared independence from Ukraine. For sake of peace I hope they can agree to some form of settlement. Otherwise the killing and suffering continues with possible conflagration.

      • So the world is supposed to ignore the annexation of Crimea by brute force? And just when did the eastern provinces genuinely vote to become indepenent?

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