Pope Hits Powerful Russian Bishop for Being Putin's Mouthpiece

During an interview with an Italian newspaper, Pope Francis recalled a conversation with a powerful Russian bishop, blasting him for being "Putin's altar boy."

In a recent exclusive interview with Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera, Francis discussed his efforts to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin before mentioning a conversation he had with Patriarch Kirill, also known as Vladimir Gundyaev, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

"I spoke with Kirill for 40 minutes on Zoom," Francis said. "For the first 20 minutes, he read from a piece of paper he was holding in his hand all the reasons that justify the Russian invasion. I listened to him and then replied: I don't understand any of this."

Francis, who has spoken out against the war between Russia and Ukraine since February 24, has implicitly criticized Putin and has lamented what he called the "dark shadows of war."

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Pope Francis took a shot at a powerful Russian bishop in a recent interview, telling him he couldn't be "Putin's altar boy." In this photo, Pope Francis blesses attendees as he arrives on April 20, 2022 for the weekly general audience at St. Peter's square in The Vatican. Aleak from the Supreme Court revealed on Sunday of a draft opinion striking down Roe v. Wade has unleashed a political earthquake in the United States. ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP via Getty Images

During the video call with Kirill, the pope went on to say "Brother, we are not state clerics, we shouldn't speak the language of politics, but rather the language of Jesus. We are shepherds of the same holy flock of God. For this reason we must look for a path to peace, we must stop the fighting. A Patriarch can't lower himself to become Putin's altar boy."

The head of the Roman Catholic Church added, "I had a meeting with him, scheduled for June 14, in Jerusalem. It would have been our second face-to-face, nothing to do with the war. But we called it off, we agreed that it could send the wrong message."

In the interview, Francis added that he has been invited to Ukraine several times, but said, "I am not ready to travel to Kyiv, not yet."

He added, "I have sent my envoy, Cardinal Michael Czerny (head of the Department for the Promotion of Human Development) and Cardinal Konrad Krajewski (the Pope's Almoner). The latter has just visited Kyiv for the fourth time. But I feel that I shouldn't go there. Not yet."

"First, I must go to Moscow," Francis continued. "I want to meet Putin first of all. But in the end I am just a priest, what can I possibly achieve? I'll do what I can."

Ukraine sought the guidance of the Pope before the invasion began. On February 14, Ukraine's ambassador to the Holy See, Andriy Yurash, told Reuters that Ukraine was open to a Vatican mediation as the tensions between Russia on the border were first escalating.

Newsweek reached out to the Russian foreign ministry for comment.