MOSCOW, November 22 (RIA Novosti) – A meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Pope Francis scheduled for next week is especially important in the context of the ongoing Syrian civil war, a senior Russian Catholic priest said.
Igor Kovalevsky, a secretary general of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Russia, told RIA Novosti in a recent interview that the meeting “has not only a religious aspect, but also humanitarian and political” ones.
He said that the Kremlin and Vatican share a similar stance on war-torn Syria and the protection of “traditional Christian values in the modern world.”
"They can apply joint efforts to restore peace and stability in the region, and in particular to protect the Christians there," Kovalevsky said.
In September, the pontiff wrote a letter to Putin, who was then presiding over the G20 group of leading global powers, appealing to him to prevent possible military action in Syria and find a peaceful solution to the two-year civil war there.
Monday’s meeting will be the first between Putin and Pope Francis. The leader of Russia – where Russian Orthodoxy is the dominant religion – previously met the pope's predecessors Benedict XVI and the late John Paul II.
The planned meeting has been seen by observers as a sign of potential progress in strained relations between the Catholic Church and Russia’s Orthodox Church, which have been marred for many years by a number of disagreements.