Pope Francis has wanted to meet with the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, since the start of the full-scale war in Ukraine. A planned meeting between the two leaders in Jerusalem last summer, which would have taken place during a trip to Lebanon, was canceled.
On the second day of his trip to Budapest, Hungary, April 28-30, the pope had a private meeting with Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Archbishop Hilarion. During his in-flight press conference April 30, the pope commented on meeting Hilarion, saying he is someone “for whom I have much respect, and we have always had a good relationship.”
“Hilarion is an intelligent person with whom one can talk, and such relationships must be maintained, because if we talk about ecumenism, we can then say ‘I like this, but I don’t like that …’ We must extend our hand towards everyone, and also accept the extended hand of others,” he said, according to a Vatican transcript of the press conference. The metropolitan was also present at Francis’ Sunday Mass in Budapest.
Pope Francis also said during the in-flight press conference that he has only spoken once with Kirill since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. The two spoke, he said, for 40 minutes over a Zoom video call.
He also said that Metropolitan Anthony, who replaced Hilarion as chairman for external church relations, “comes to see me.”
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