Pope Francis this afternoon received in audience the president of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, and the two discussed the conflict in Ukraine.
The private meeting in the Library of the Apostolic Palace began around 6:15 p.m., Rome time, and lasted close to 50 minutes.
According to a statement from Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, “In the context of the current world situation, the conversation mainly focused on the conflict in the Ukraine and the situation in the Middle East. Regarding the situation in the Ukraine, the Holy Father said that we must engage in a sincere and great effort to achieve peace and emphasized the importance of rebuilding a climate of dialogue and the need for all concerned parties to implement the agreements of Minsk.
“Another topic was the essential commitment required by all parties to address the serious humanitarian situation and allow wider access to humanitarian workers in the region.”
Urgency of peace
The Vatican statement also reported that the two discussed conflicts in the Middle East, including those in Syria and Iraq.
Father Lombardi said that “the meeting confirmed what has already been shared: the urgency to pursue peace with the concrete interest of the international community, while ensuring at the same time the necessary conditions for the life of all the parts of society, including religious minorities, and particularly Christians.”
Following the meeting there was an exchange of gifts. President Putin gave the Pope a representation in embroidery of the famous Church of Jesus the Savior, while the Pope gave the president the medallion by the artist Guido Veroi depicting the angel of peace that is an invitation to build a world of solidarity and peace founded on justice, as well as a copy of the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.
The Vatican reported that at the same time the meeting was taking place with President Putin and the Pope, another meeting took place between Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, and His Excellency Mr. Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.
“During that meeting, the same topics were addressed,” the Vatican reported, “with a focus on the conflict in the Ukraine and the alarming situation in the Middle East.”
The Pope had previously been visited by Putin on November 25, 2013.
Before meeting the Pope, President Putin visited the Expo in Milan, on the occasion of the Russian Day at the exhibition.
The Russian head of state also met with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi while in Milan, and president of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella, in Rome.