Pope Francis Discusses Ukraine War With Russian Orthodox Leader

Pope Francis spoke with Patriarch Kirill, according to the Patriarchate of Moscow on March 16.

Pope Francis takes part in a video call with Patriarch Kirill on March 16.
Pope Francis takes part in a video call with Patriarch Kirill on March 16. (photo: Vatican Media / via CNA)

Pope Francis has discussed the Ukraine war with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Patriarchate of Moscow said on Wednesday.

The Pope and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia are believed to have discussed the conflict during a video conference call on March 16.

The Vatican had not commented on the discussion at the time of publication.

The Russian Orthodox Church’s Department for External Church Relations (DECR) said that the talks included “a detailed discussion of the situation on Ukrainian soil.”

“Special attention was paid to the humanitarian aspects of the current crisis and the actions of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church to overcome its consequences,” it said.

“The parties stressed the utmost importance of the ongoing negotiation process, expressing the hope that a just peace would be achieved as soon as possible.”

The Russian Orthodox Church is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Church with an estimated 150 million members, accounting for more than half of the world’s Orthodox Christians.

The DECR said that its chairman, Metropolitan Hilarion, and Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, also participated in Wednesday’s discussion.

“Pope Francis and His Holiness Patriarch Kirill also discussed a number of current issues of bilateral interaction,” the DECR said.

Pope Francis met with Patriarch Kirill at Havana airport in Cuba on Feb. 12, 2016, in the first meeting between a pope and a patriarch of Moscow.

Hopes of a second encounter rose at the end of 2021, when the Pope received Metropolitan Hilarion at the Vatican.

Patriarch Kirill has received appeals from Catholic bishops across Europe to speak out against the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, launched on Feb. 24.

Among those who have called on him to intervene to end the war are Poland’s Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, Germany’s Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the Irish bishops and Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE).

Pope Francis has sought to strengthen Catholic-Orthodox ties since his election in 2013.

He has formed a close bond with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the spiritual leader of the world’s estimated 300 million Orthodox Christians.

But the Russian Orthodox Church severed ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in 2018 after Bartholomew I confirmed that he intended to recognize the independence of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

Pope Francis announced on Tuesday that he will consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord.

Nicaraguan police place Bishop Rolando José Álvarez under house arrest Aug. 4 at the diocesan chancery in Matagalpa, Nicaragua.

Nicaragua Needs More

EDITORIAL: Although the Vatican has offered a muted response, Pope Francis must do more to condemn human-rights abuses in Nicaragua before the Ortega regime exploits papal silence to justify its immoral actions.