Pope meets Putin to discuss current affairs

President Vladimir Putin and Pope Francis met at the Vatican last Thursday to discuss environmental issues, the Catholic Church in Russia and current affairs in Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela.

It was Putin’s third meeting with Pope Francis and fifth visit to the Vatican.

At the end of the 55-minute private meeting, Alessandro Gisotti from the Vatican press office, issued a statement describing the discussions as “cordial.”

He said Francis and Putin “expressed their satisfaction at the development of bilateral relations”.

This included signing a collaboration agreement between the Vatican’s Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital and pediatric hospitals in Russia.

Putin also reported on the closed-door meeting, saying he and Francis had discussed the issues of protecting the Christian population of the Middle East and humanitarian assistance in Syria.

“It is important that the positions of Russia and the Vatican coincide in the issues concerning traditional values, promoting inter-religious and inter-civilisational dialogue,” he said.

Other matters he and Francis discussed included developing relations between Russia and the Vatican. They agreed to pay special attention to cooperation in the fields of culture, education and healthcare, Putin reported.

He said Francis expressed interest in Tolstoy’s and Dostoyevsky’s literary works.

“We delved into [cultural ties and Russian literature] in a conversation with the pope.

“The pontiff allowed me to make it public that one of the books, which is always on his table, is Russian classical literature, including works by Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy,” Putin commented.

“This was a very kind discussion. [We spoke about] some international issues and also about developing bilateral relations between Russia and the Vatican, including the spiritual aspect of this cooperation and humanitarian ties.

“Actually, he [the pope] said something else. I, he said, tell my clergymen that without Dostoyevsky’s books, without realising the full depth of his philosophy, one cannot be a true priest,” Putin said.

“That speaks volumes, you know. That indicates our mutual, profound spiritual roots. That’s why our humanitarian events are such a success.”

The transcript of the closed-door meeting was posted on the Kremlin’s website on Friday.

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News category: World.

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