ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (AP) — Pope Francis said Sunday he was still working on arranging a meeting with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, despite that leader’s seeming justification for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and said he wouldn’t rule out travelling to the region if it would help.
Speaking to reporters en route home from Malta, Francis said he and Patriarch Kirill were thinking of a possible location in the Middle East. But he provided no details other than to recall that they spoke by video on March 16.
Kirill has called for peace and for civilians to be spared but has seemingly justified Russia’s invasion by casting it as a “metaphysical” battle with the West and its “gay parades.” His insistence that Russians and Ukrainians are “one people” is echoed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Francis was asked what he would say to Putin if they were to speak by phone, and recalled what he had told Maltese leaders upon his arrival on Saturday. In the speech, Francis blasted the “potentate” for his “infantile and destructive aggression” that he had justified under the guise of “anachronistic claims of nationalist interests.” Still, he did not name Putin in the speech.