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Pope meets Moscow Church official following cryptic ‘peace’ comment

Pope Francis met with a senior member of the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Anthony, on Wednesday, days after making a cryptic comment about the Vatican’s involvement in a mission to end the war in Ukraine.

During the Pope’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square, Anthony was given priority and spent more time chatting with the pontiff than others.

The meeting followed the Pope’s return from a trip to Hungary on Sunday when he was asked by a reporter whether Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and ROC officials could accelerate a Ukraine peace process and arrange a meeting between the Pope and Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

Francis responded that a mission was underway but not yet public.

Francis had previously expressed a desire to visit both Kyiv and Moscow on a peace mission. However, his recent comments appeared to catch both Kyiv and Moscow by surprise, with both denying knowledge of any papal peace initiative.

The Vatican has not provided any further details on the comments. While Anthony has had meetings with other Vatican officials, it is unclear whether he will have a private audience with the Pope during his visit to Rome.

The supreme head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, is a strong supporter of Putin and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal met with the Pope last week and discussed a “peace formula” put forward by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Shmyhal also reiterated an invitation for the Pope to visit Kyiv.

It is unclear what specific mission the Pope was referring to and how it relates to efforts to end the war in Ukraine. The conflict, which began in 2014, has resulted in the deaths of over 13,000 people and displacement of millions. The Pope had previously expressed concern about the situation and called for an end to the violence.

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