Pope Francis on Thursday received Vladimir Putin in an audience at the Vatican. It’s the Russian president’s sixth visit to the Vatican, and his third audience with Pope Francis.
Vladimir Putin broke his own record and arrived at Via della Conciliazione more than an hour late. The last time he met the pope, he made him wait 50 minutes.
Georg Gänswein, prefect of the pontifical household, received him in the courtyard of St. Damasus. The German bishop accompanied him through the corridors of the Apostolic Palace to the pope’s study.
After a cordial struggle to see who could enter the office first, the meeting began. Their third meeting went on for almost an hour.
A communiqué released by the Holy See Press Office said the Pope received the President of the Russian Federation in the Apostolic Palace, and that President Putin subsequently met with the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and with the Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher.
The communiqué continued saying that “During the cordial discussions, both Parties expressed their satisfaction at the development of bilateral relations, further strengthened by the protocol of understanding signed today regarding the collaboration between the “Bambino Gesù” Paediatric Hospital and the paediatric hospitals of the Russian Federation”.
Other issues discussed included questions of relevance to the life of the Catholic Church in Russia.
The two men met for the first time in 2013, shortly after Pope Francis’ election to the papacy; and then in 2015. The urgent need to pursue peace in the Middle East, and especially in Syria, likewise featured prominently in earlier conversations. The conflict in Ukraine was also a focus of the meeting in 2015.
Relations between Russia and the Holy See saw a turning point in December 1989, toward the end of the Soviet era, when Mikhail Gorbachev met with St John Paul II. It was the first meeting of a Pope with a Soviet leader. Diplomatic relations between the Vatican and the Soviet Union were established following the encounter.