The Pope’s trips to Lebanon and Kazakhstan are possible, as is the meeting with the Patriarch

ROME — While the Vatican has confirmed Pope Francis’ hope to visit Kazakhstan this year, it has not confirmed a report that Pope Francis may meet Russian Orthodox Patriarch Cyril of Moscow in Jerusalem in June.

Pope Francis and Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev spoke by videoconference on April 11, “and the pope confirmed his intention to visit the country,” said Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican’s press office.

After the meeting, Tokayev’s office released a statement indicating that Pope Francis had confirmed that he would travel to the country to participate in the World Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions on September 14-15 in Nur-Sultan, the national capital. The Vatican has sent a delegation to every World Congress since the program began in 2003.

And, a week after Bruni said the Vatican was exploring the idea of ​​a papal trip to Lebanon in June, Britain’s Reuters news agency said the trip could take place on June 12-13. Citing unnamed sources, Reuters said the pope could then fly to Amman, Jordan early June 14 and travel by helicopter to Jerusalem for a meeting with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, said April 7 that Pope Francis wanted to meet Patriarch Cyril, but churches were looking for a “neutral place” to do so.

At the same time, Patriarch Kirill’s support for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his war against Ukraine could make a meeting inadvisable.

In early March, shortly after the invasion, Parolin told the Italian news agency ANSA: “Kirill’s words do not favor and do not promote an understanding, on the contrary, they risk inflaming even more the spirits and escalating and not solving the problem. crisis peacefully.

During his flight from Malta to Rome on April 2, Pope Francis was asked about his meeting with the Patriarch. He told reporters: “For some time there have been considerations about a meeting with Patriarch Kirill; that’s what we’re working on, with the possibility of holding the meeting in the Middle East.

Pope Francis and Patriarch Cyril spoke via videoconference on March 16.

The Moscow Patriarchate’s statement on the discussion was brief and vague, saying the two had “a detailed discussion of the situation on Ukrainian soil”, paying particular attention to the humanitarian situation and expressing hope for negotiations.

The Vatican, however, released an unusually long statement, quoting the pope telling the patriarch: “We are shepherds of the same holy people who believe in God, in the Holy Trinity, in the holy mother of God: therefore we must unite in the effort to help peace, to help those who suffer, to seek ways of peace, to stop the gunfire.

“There was a time when we spoke, even in our churches, of holy war or just war. Today, we can’t talk like that. Christian awareness of the importance of peace has grown,” the pope told the patriarch, according to the Vatican statement.

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of external relations for the Russian Orthodox Church, said in a statement on April 11 that all details, including the location of the meeting between the pope and the patriarch, were still being discussed. .

“In the current complex political situation,” he said, “very thorough attention must be given not only to questions concerning the substantial part of the meeting of the pope and the patriarch, but also to questions concerning security, the transport and logistics”.

Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill were the first Pope and Patriarch of Moscow to meet personally. In February 2016, during a brief stopover en route to Mexico, Pope Francis landed in Havana where he and Patriarch Cyril met for about two hours. The meeting followed decades of discussions and negotiations between Vatican officials and officials of the Patriarch of Moscow.