Vladimir Putin Pope Francis

The Awkward Meeting When Pope Francis Talked About Ukraine With Putin

Pope Francis and Vladimir Putin had a particularly chilly meeting on Wednesday, with each side lobbing diplomatic slights at the other. The Pope asked for a sincere effort to establish peace in Ukraine and access to the humanitarian crisis for aid workers. Putin seemed like he had more important things to do.

To start things off, Vladimir Putin was 70 minutes late to his private meeting with Pope Francis. It was a rare snub for the religious leader of 1.2 billion Catholics, according to Bloomberg, but Putin has been making it a habit.

In another meeting in 2013, Putin was 50 minutes late, helping to earn the Russian president this frightening glance from Pope Francis (photo here).

Similar to the last meeting, the two sat across from each other at a table in cold silence. The Pope greeted Putin with a simple “hello” in German, a language the two share. The Russian president responded with a gesture.

Then they waited as the media left.

The Pope reportedly had a slight of his own planned. Bloomberg reports that he gave Putin a loaded gift, a medallion that carried a reference to the struggle in Ukraine and other conflicts. Father Federico Lombardi stated that it represented “the angel of peace, which defeats all wars and speaks of solidarity among peoples.”

Lombardi explained the Pope discussed the Ukrainian crisis in more direct terms.

“The Holy Father stated the need to commit to a sincere and great effort to achieve peace, and it was agreed it was important to rebuild a climate of dialogue and that all parties commit to enforce the Minsk accords.”

Despite the apparent tension, Vladimir Putin and Pope Francis have formed a strong working bond in the past, as John Allen at The Crux pointed out.

For one, the two joined forces to prevent U.S. military action in Syria in 2013, after news broke that the regime used sarin gas on its own people. The Pope wrote to world leaders, “lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution,” and held a vigil for peace.

According to Time, Putin followed up with his own op-ed piece in the New York Times, calling on the U.S. to avoid intervention.

By many accounts, the duo (especially Pope Francis) had a profound effect.

Likewise, the two have worked together to bring more attention to the oppression of Middle Eastern Christians.

Putin wrote in April, “As regards the Middle East and its Christians, their situation is dire.”

“The international community is not doing enough… this is the motherland of Christians. Christians have lived there from time immemorial, for thousands of years.”

The leader likely has some interest in reclaiming Russia’s position as a protector of Orthodox Christians, which represent that majority of Christians in the Middle East.

Pope Francis is a strong advocate of dialogue and partnership with other churches, as previously reported by the Inquisitr. The Pope’s concern for the oppressed Christians even prompted him to demand the world to stop trying to “hide” the violence brought against the ancient Orthodox groups.

Leveraging those common interests into a sustainable solution for Ukraine would be no easy task. The Pope has performed diplomatic miracles before, such as getting Israelis and Palestinians sitting at the same table and instigating a new dialogue between Washington and Cuba. Still, late arrivals and icy silence are not promising signs for the Pope Francis – Putin partnership.

[Image Credit: Getty Images]

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