Russian President Vladimir Putin was greeted by Pope Francis in the Vatican, Wednesday in their first meeting since 2013.
Just hours prior to the meeting, the US ambassador to the Holy See Kenneth Hackett attempted to encourage the pontiff to join the West in condemning Moscow’s actions in Ukraine. In particular, Hackett said the Vatican “could say more about concerns on territorial integrity”. “Maybe this is an opportunity for the Holy Father to privately raise those concerns,” Hackett said.
Russian presidential spokesman, Dmitry Peskov said that the US attempt to ‘lecture the Pope’ before the meeting with Putin was a ‘big responsibility’ to take
The Russian president’s spokesman said that during their conversation, Pope Francis and Vladimir Putin touched on the issue of Ukraine, noting that US advice on what concerns should be raised, was an attack on sovereignty and an attempt to lecture the Pope.
RT reports: However, at the hour-long private audience with the Russian President, the Pope took a neutral stance. He urged for more humanitarian assistance, which Russia already provides, and for a peaceful solution to the crisis via Minsk II roadmap.
“It was agreed on the importance to restore a climate of dialogue and that all parties commit themselves to implement the agreements Minsk,” Holy See said in a statement. “Also essential is the commitment to address the serious humanitarian situation, including by ensuring access to humanitarian agents and with the contribution of all parties to a progressive relaxation in the region.”
The apparent move by Washington to interfere with talks and exert influence on the foreign policy of another state has been condemned by the Russian presidential spokesman, Dmitry Peskov.
“This is surely a blatant attempt in suppressing sovereignty of other nations,” Peskov told Russian media. “This is what the Russian President never agreed with, and now categorically opposes.”
Lecturing, or even “pretending to have the right to lecture the Pope of Rome” is surely a “new move” in international diplomacy, and a “big responsibility,” Dmitry Peskov noted.
Putin and Pope Francis had a “profound” discussion that focused on a number of issues. They have discussed the threat posed by radical Islam to Christian communities in Syria. They have also discussed common values that unite Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and other world religions.