Rome, Italy, Nov 11, 2013 / 03:48 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Nov. 25 at the Vatican, according to the director of the Holy See’s Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi.
On the following day, the Pontiff will meet with the President of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano.
The first meeting between Pope Francis and the Russian president comes after the Holy Father sent Putin a letter on Sept. 5, at the opening of the G-20 summit, calling on the group’s leaders to set aside the “useless” search for a military solution to the conflict in Syria and to pursue a peaceful resolution through dialogue and negotiation.
Upon his election to the papacy, Pope Francis received a letter of congratulations from Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church in which he expressed his hope that Orthodox and Catholic believers would join forces to defend persecuted Christians in the world and to promote traditional values amidst the widespread secularism.
Pope Francis will be the third pontiff to meet with President Putin. On March 13, 2007, the Russian leader met with Benedict XVI and although he did not invite the Pope to visit Russia, despite hopes that he would, the meeting did mark a turning point in relations with then Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexis II.
John Paul II met with Putin twice during his pontificate, once in 2000 and a second time in 2003. Years earlier, the future saint met with the president of the Soviet Union, Mikail Gorbachov, on Dec. 1, 1989, several days after the fall of the Berlin Wall.