Video call

Pope, Russian Orthodox Patriarch discuss Ukraine in video call

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia leads the Orthodox Christmas service at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, Russia, January 6, 2022. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

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VATICAN CITY, March 16 (Reuters) – Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church and Pope Francis discussed the war in Ukraine on Wednesday, Kirill’s office said, the first known contact between the two religious leaders since start of the conflict.

The Patriarchate of Moscow said in a statement that the two discussed the “humanitarian aspects of the ongoing crisis” and the importance of continuing peace talks.

They also discussed “actions that the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches could take to overcome its consequences,” the Russian side said.

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In its reading of the conversation, which took place over a video call, the Vatican said the pope told Kirill: “Those who pay the price of war are the people, the Russian soldiers and the people who is bombed and dies”.

Kirill, 75, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has made statements defending Moscow’s actions in Ukraine and sees the war as a bulwark against a West he considers decadent, especially in the face of acceptance of the homosexuality. Read more

During his general audience earlier on Wednesday, Francis raised the specter of nuclear war, where the remnant of humanity would have to start all over again “the day after,” and appeared to be asking God to stop the aggressor in Ukraine. Read more

Metropolitan (Archbishop) Hilaron of the Russian Orthodox Church’s external affairs office and Cardinal Kurt Koch, head of the Vatican Council for Christian Unity, also took part in the conversation, according to the two statements.

On Wednesday evening, the Vatican’s number two, Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, said a mass for peace in Ukraine in St. Peter’s Basilica, which was attended by the Ukrainian and Russian ambassadors to the Vatican.

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Additional reporting by Sujata Rao in London; Editing by William Maclean and Jonathan Oatis

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