Pope Francis on Tuesday said he has requested a meeting in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the Ukraine war but has heard nothing back.
The 85-year-old pontiff reportedly told Italy’s Corriere Della Sera newspaper that he had sent a message to Putin around 20 days into the conflict saying “that I was willing to go to Moscow”.
“We have not yet received a response and we are still insisting, though I fear that Putin cannot, and does not, want to have this meeting at this time,” he said.
The pope has repeatedly called for peace in Ukraine and denounced a “cruel and senseless war” but without ever mentioning Putin or Moscow by name.
The head of the Roman Catholic Church also said he would not be travelling to Ukraine anytime soon. The pontiff made an unprecedented visit to the Russian Embassy in Rome when the war started.
“I’m not going to Kyiv for now. I feel I shouldn’t go. I have to go to Moscow first, I have to meet Putin first,” he said.
Francis also said that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban had told him that Putin planned to end the war on May 9, which Russia celebrates as Victory Day marking Nazi Germany’s surrender in 1945.
“Orban, when I met him, he told me that the Russians have a plan, that everything will be over on May 9th,” Pope Francis said.
“This would also explain the speed of the escalation of these days. Because now it’s not just the Donbas, it’s Crimea, it’s Odesa, it’s taking away the Black Sea port from Ukraine, it’s everything.” he added.
There is not enough will for peace,” the Pope said. “I am pessimistic, but we must make every possible gesture to stop the war.”
The pope also compared the war in Ukraine to the genocide in Rwanda.
“We have not yet received an answer and we are still insisting, even if I fear that Putin cannot and does not want to have this meeting right now. But so much brutality, how can you not stop it?.
“Twenty-five years ago we experienced the same thing with Rwanda,” Pope Francis said.