May 4, 2022 - World

Pope tells Russian Orthodox leader: Don't be "Putin's altar boy"

Pope Francis (R) and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, are pictured during a historic meeting in Havana on February 12, 2016.

Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, and Pope Francis during a 2016 meeting in Havana. Photo: Adalberto RoqueAFP via Getty Images

The leader of Russia's Orthodox Church said Wednesday he regrets the "incorrect tone" Pope Francis used in addressing his support for Russian President Vladimir Putin over the invasion of Ukraine, per multiple reports.

Driving the news: The pope addressed Putin loyalist Patriarch Kirill's support for the invasion as he called for an end to the war during an interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Tuesday.

  • Francis recounted a March 16 conversation with Kirill in which the Russian religious leader tried to justify the invasion by reading out points on a piece of paper.
  • "I listened and then told him: I don’t understand anything about this," Francis said, per a Washington Post translation.
  • "Brother, we are not state clerics, we cannot use the language of politics but that of Jesus. We are pastors of the same holy people of God. Because of this, we must seek avenues of peace, to put an end to the firing of weapons."
  • The pontiff recalled telling him not to follow Putin, saying: "The patriarch cannot transform himself into Putin's altar boy."

What he's saying: "Pope Francis chose an incorrect tone to convey the content of this conversation," Kirill said, per Reuters.

  • "Such statements are unlikely to contribute to the establishment of a constructive dialogue between the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches, which is especially necessary at the present time," he added.

Of note: The European Commission announced plans on Wednesday to target Kirill in a sixth package of sanctions against Russia over the invasion.

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