Is Russia a Surprise Ally in the Defense of Persecuted Christians?


Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, is paying a visit to the Pope.

According to Vatican Radio, this is the fourth time President Putin has visited the Vatican. He met twice with Pope John Paul II and once with Pope Benedict XVI.

President Putin, who is an Orthodox Christian, has said through his spokespeople that he and Pope Francis will focus on, among a couple of other things, “the protection of Christian minorities in the Maghreb and the Middle East.”

From QuestionMore.Live:

Hopes were high for warmer relations between the Russian Orthodox and Catholic churches as President Vladimir Putin flew Monday to Rome for his first audience with Pope Francis. Topping the agenda is likely help for Christians in the Middle East.

Putin, an Orthodox Christian, has repeatedly said that he is a man of faith and his administration has consistently sought closer ties with the Russian Orthodox Church.

His policies “have brought religion to the forefront and triggered positive change in ecumenical relations,” said Natalya Pecherskaya, rector of the St. Petersburg School of Religion and Philosophy.

But state interests will come first on the visit, officials said.

“Putin will be meeting Pope Francis as the president of Russia, and then only secondly as a Russian Orthodox [Christian],” said Father Kirill Gorbunov, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow.

As well as his visit with the Holy Father in the Vatican, Putin will meet with Italian president Giorgio Napolitano and Romano Prodi, the country’s former premier and a special UN representative, in Rome. On Tuesday, Putin will travel to Trieste for talks with the Italian government.

The Kremlin announced ahead of the visit that Putin and Pope Francis would focus on the state of international institutions and their ability to respond to crises, as well as the protection of Christian minorities in the Maghreb and the Middle East.

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  • Manny

    I don’t trust Putin as far as I can throw a stick. I’m not exactly sure what his understanding of Christianity is.

    • hamiltonr

      I agree, Only with me it’s as far as I can throw my car. :-)

      • Manny


    • FW Ken

      Manny, I’ve read Orthodox say the same thing. Their phrase for politically convenient Christians is “candle holder”, which is the depth they ascribe to the politician’s faith.

      All of that said, we should remember that it’s our administration that is supporting the rebels in Syria, who are actively and systematically killing Christians.

      • Manny

        That’s a great phrase, “candle holder.” LOL!

  • pagansister

    The only thing Putin is is a former (and still acting like) KGB man. Ditto to not trusting Putin as far as Manny could throw a stick, or Rebecca could throw her car! :-) He claims to be a Christian? Really? Funny, I thought he was still a communist at heart.

    • hamiltonr

      The thing is, if he’s going to work to help persecuted Christians, (for whatever reason) then I wish him well in that endeavor. Politics. Strange bedfellows. And all that. :-)

      • Manny

        If he’s sincere, then I will support him too. But I want to see it to believe it.

        • Canestri

          “But I want to see it to believe it.”

          Doing all that he can to prevent Syria and Egypt from falling into Islamist hands means nothing to you?

          • Manny

            Well, he also supports Iran and allows the terrorism they export. Putin does what’s in Russia’s interest. US leadership failure has allowed a vacuum in Egypt that has allowed Russia an opportunity to swing that country into its sphere of influence. And American weakness has created a total mess in Syria that also has allowed Putin to capitalize. I haven’t seen anything to suggest Putin is doing it for Christianity’s sake. If he were he would get tough on Iran and Pakistan. I have to say, he’s spinning Obama like a top.

            • Canestri

              Of course Putin does what is in Russia’s interest. Are Americans the only ones allowed to act in favor of their interests?

              • Manny

                Of course, but America acts in the world’s interest more than any other nation. I’m not going to rattle off the number of places we’ve sacrificed blood and/or treasure for minimal if any national interest. Rebecca can tell you. She’s been against them.

      • Thomas R

        I admit I’m a little skeptical because, in the past, his regimes hasn’t been especially good to Christians who aren’t Eastern Orthodox.

        Some of the disdain to Evangelicals I understand to be honest. After Communism fell I saw ads on Protestant-oriented channels about “evangelizing Russia” that came pretty close to just saying “Because the Christians they have are mostly that icky Orthodox or Catholic stuff.” So I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the more extreme evangelists were inspired to go to Russia, tell them they didn’t suffer for the right Christian faith, and annoy the heck out of the people. Still some of the stuff I’d read of Putin-era treatments of the Salvation Army, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and sometimes even us Catholics makes me leery of him as any defender of non-EOC Christianity.

    • Canestri


      Putin is a man who:

      - Became Prime Minister then Acting President of Russia only because he was appointed to the position by Boris Yeltsin, who had crushed the old Soviet establishment and hastened the demise of the USSR

      - Has denounced the Bolsheviks as traitors

      - Has gone out of his way to honor Russia’s Imperial past. In Moscow there was a just-finished exhibit, visited by 300,000 Russians and sponsored by the government, praising the Romanovs and decrying their overthrow by Putin and Stalin.

      - Has made sure that the old Russian Communist Party (which still exists) will never be a more-than-marginal political force

      • Canestri

        “- Has gone out of his way to honor Russia’s Imperial past. In Moscow there was a just-finished exhibit, visited by 300,000 Russians and sponsored by the government, praising the Romanovs and decrying their overthrow by Putin and Stalin.”

        Their overthrow by LENIN and Stalin, I meant

    • James

      Putin is no Communist. He has no love for the old USSR.

      As Canestri pointed out, his obsession is with Imperial Russia. He seems to want to be Czar. Part of being Czar is promoting Orthodox Christianity in the public square and protecting Orthodox Christians around the world. Promoting human rights and democracy never has been part of the job description of being Czar.

      I don’t know if his interest in Orthodox Christianity is sincere or strictly political, but his actions are completely consistent with pre-1917 Russian policy.

      • pagansister

        i would agree that promoting human rights and democracy are not part of Putin’s job as a would be Czar. Neither would those be a part of being a communist leader, IMO.

  • D. A. Christianson

    Trust him? Not really. But if we, the most powerful country on earth won’t, I’ll be grateful if number 2 will.

    Kennedy had the operative quote, “Support any friend, oppose any foe…”

    And, of course, the Reagan codicil, “Trust, but verify.”

    • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

      The beneath-morons to whom your electorate entrusted the leadership of the free world want the Eastern Christians dead or expelled. Their every act says that. The latest rumour – and most of the previous rumours were true – is that they intend to downgrade the embassy to the Vatican, forcing it into an unwelcome and demeaning cohabitation with the embassy to Italy. As an Italian and a Catholic, I am enraged, but not in the least surprised. – Considering the insults that Obama has heaped on his main allies, beginning with Germany, of late, I am beginning to think that Putin would possibly make a better ally. He certainly would not be stupid enough to insult Angela Merkel and then double down by insulting her country.

      • FW Ken

        That rumor is true. I was pretty upset, too, in the context of Pres. Obama’s general treatment of Christians. However, apparently this has been in process for awhile, concerns security and cost savings, and is not uncommon practice among other embassies. The key is how these delegations function: the Vatican has eyes all over the world. As we have seen numerous times, they can be a player in world crises and the smart money stays close. But, as we also see, the Obama administration is not necessarily the smart money.

        • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

          It is “not uncommon practice” when dealing with tiny, distant and unimportant countries. I imagine that the South African embassy has sections for Lesotho and Swaziland, or the embassy to Fiji for Vaunatu and Nauru. To treat Italy and the Vatican, a first-rank ally and one of the most important “contacts” in the world, like this, is to demean both. You have to remember that professional diplomacy is an extraordinarily artificial world, largely parasitical, and with a spinster’s attention to the tiniest strand of gossip, And this comes after the Obama administration had done its best to annoy Germany and its leader. Smart fellows – NOT.

  • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

    The protection of Eastern Christians is one of the most ancient and traditional Russian concerns. The country itself, in its modern form, was literally carved out, bit by bit, from Orthodox territories oppressed by Muslim empires – Tartars first, Turks later. Most of southern Russia and half of Ukraine were torn from Turkey by force. And the Russians always looked beyond their own borders, to the Greeks and the Armenians under the Turkish heel, and beyond that to Jerusalem. Even under Communist rule, this tendency did not entirely disappear: the Soviets saved the remains of Armenia from the Turks and crushed Turkish attempts to conquer central Asia. Historically, Greeks, Armenians and Georgians have often been part of the Russian political and military leadership – Stalin and Mikoyan were not exceptions. (Remember Field-Marshal Bagration from War And Peace? He was a historical figure, the nominal heir of the kings of Georgia.) Putin is rediscovering the traditional paths of Russian policy.

    • Manny

      Thanks for that. That does make sense.

    • James

      Correct. Russian protection of Orthodox Serbia against Catholic Austria-Hungary is what turned a minor regional conflict into World War I.