Pope says Russian Orthodox Patriarch should not act as ‘Putin’s altar boy’

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Pope Francis said in an interview published Tuesday that he told Patriarch Kirill — the head of the Russian Orthodox Church — not to “turn himself into Putin’s altar boy,” CNN reported Wednesday.

Francis told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that he spoke with Kirill via Zoom for about 40 minutes on March 16. “The first 20 minutes he read to me, card in hand, all the justifications for war,” Francis said.

“I listened to him and I said to him: ‘I don’t understand anything about this. Brother, we are not state clerics, we cannot use the language of politics but that of Jesus'”, a continued the pontiff.

Francis also confirmed that the two clerics had agreed to postpone a face-to-face meeting in Jerusalem that was scheduled for June. “It could be an ambiguous signal,” explained the pontiff.

The Roman Catholic Church – of which Francis is the head – split from the Eastern Orthodox Church in 1054. Eastern Orthodoxy comprises between 14 and 16 autocephalous (self-ruled) churches, of which the Russian Orthodox Church of Kirill is from far the biggest.

The week before his Zoom call with Francis, Kirill, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, described the war in Ukraine as a “metaphysical” struggle against an ungodly international order based on “excessive consumption” and “gay parades”. .

Francis has repeatedly called for peace in Ukraine. Last month he kissed a flag of the Ukrainian town of Bucha and lamented the “horrible cruelty” Russian soldiers showed the civilian population of Bucha.

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