Patriarch Kirill cancels Kazakhstan trip and chance to meet with Pope Francis

A meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, appears to be scrapped after the cleric, who has been widely criticised for his justifications for the invasion of Ukraine, pulled out of a meeting of religious leaders in Kazakhstan next month.

According to Reuters, a senior Russian Orthodox official told the Russian news agency RIA on 24 August that Kirill will not attend the Congress of Leaders of World Religions in the Kazakh capital of Nur-Sultan next month. Francis, who is slated to attend the gathering, was said to be hoping for an encounter with Kirill on the sidelines of the event.

While the two met in 2016 in Havana, the abrupt cancellation marks the second time since the Ukraine war started that a chance for the two church leaders to meet has been scratched. Francis was expected to speak with Kirill in June in Jerusalem, but Vatican officials were concerned that the encounter would have diplomatic repercussions.

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