Putin to meet the Pope for the first time in four years after Pope called for peace in Ukraine


Putin is to meet Pope Francis for the first time in four years next month. 

The Vatican said the Russian president, who is on a state visit to Italy, will hold talks with the Argentinian-born Pope on July 4.

It will be the first time they’ve spoken since the church leader urged Putin to make a ‘sincere and great effort’ to achieve peace in Ukraine.

Following Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea parts of the country have seen armed conflict between Ukrainian government forces and Russian separatists.

The talks are also expected to touch on a possible visit to Russia, which contains an estimated 773,000 Catholics alongside the majority Russian Orthodox population, by the head of the Catholic church.

The pope met Russian Othodox Patriarch Kirill in 2016, a landmark step in healing the 1,000-year-old rift between the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity.

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, and Boris Yeltsin, the first president of post-Soviet Russia, had invited the late Pope John Paul to visit.

But a trip was not possible because of tensions between the two churches. 

However, relations have now improved following a number of visits by the Pope to countries with predominately Orthodox populations.

He visited Romania last week, and also went to Bulgaria and North Macedonia last month. 

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