While Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill may seem at odds, they are both trying to play both sides of the conflict in Ukraine, one expert says.
VATICAN CITY (RNS) — War in Ukraine might have set back the clock on Vatican relations with the Russian Orthodox Church, but according to one expert on Catholic relations with Eastern churches a meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, originally planned for June is not yet off the table.
Since Russia invaded its neighbor on Feb. 21, Francis has strongly urged an end to the fighting, but he has not blamed Russian Vladimir Putin for the war, nor named Russia as the aggressor. The Vatican has remained above the conflict and has not taken an official position on whether Ukraine should join NATO and the European Union, become part of Russia or be an independent state.
In his speeches and sermons Francis has “never spoke clearly about Ukraine or Russia, he never even mentioned the Ukrainian Catholics,” said the Rev. Stefano Caprio, who teaches Russian history and culture at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome and served as a missionary in Russia between 1989 and 2002.