Putin keeps Francis waiting – again

Pope Francis and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Vatican yesterday (CNS/Paul Haring)

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Pope Francis at the Vatican yesterday for a 55-minute private discussion. Source: CNA.

“Thank you for the time you have devoted to me,” Mr Putin said after his audience with the Pope in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.

It was Mr Putin’s third meeting with Pope Francis and fifth visit to the Vatican. The Russian leader arrived nearly an hour late for the meeting, as he did for both of his prior meetings with Francis.

The day before Mr Putin’s visit Pope Francis expressed his condolences and closeness to the families of the 14 Russian sailors who died when a deep-sea submarine caught fire in an Arctic port on Tuesday. Russian officials confirmed that the top-secret submarine was nuclear-powered less than one hour before the papal audience was scheduled.

“The Holy Father was informed of the Russian submarine tragedy. He expresses its condolences and its closeness to the victims' families and those affected by this disaster,” Holy See press office interim director Alessandro Gisotti said on Wednesday.

The Russian ambassador to the Holy See, Aleksandr Avdeev, said ahead of the meeting that he expected Mr Putin and the Pope to discuss “the instability of international relations, the crisis in the Middle East, the fate of Syria, the problem of nuclear disarmament, the situation in Iran.”

“The time has come when Catholics can no longer solve many problems and open challenges, without taking into account the political logic of Russia and the experience of our Orthodoxy,” Mr Avdeev said in an interview with Ogonek, a Russian magazine.

Mr Putin was also expected to discuss the situation in Ukraine after the Ukrainian Orthodox Church split with the Russian Orthodox Church last year. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople formally recognised the independence of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine in January.

At their previous meeting in 2015, Pope Francis asked Mr Putin for “sincere and comprehensive effort to achieve peace” in Ukraine after Russia annexed Crimea the year before. Their first meeting, in 2013, focused on the Syrian civil war.

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