“I spoke to him for 40 minutes via Zoom,” the Pope told Italian daily Corriere della Sera in an interview published on Tuesday. “For the first twenty minutes he read to me, card in his hands, all the justifications for war.”
“I listened to him and said, ‘I don’t understand anything about this,'” the Pope said. “Brother, we are not state clergy, we cannot use the language of politics but the language of Christ.”
“The patriarch cannot turn himself into Putin’s altar boy,” the pope said.
Francis said the phone call with Kirill took place on March 16, and that he and the patriarch had agreed to postpone a meeting scheduled for June 14 in Jerusalem.
“Our second meeting will be face to face, and it has nothing to do with war,” the pope said. “But now, he, too, agrees: Let’s stop, it could be a vague signal.”
The Russian Orthodox Church said in a statement on Wednesday that the pope’s comments were “regrettable”.
“It is unfortunate that after a month and a half of conversation with Patriarch Kirill, Pope Francis chose the wrong tone to convey the content of the conversation,” said the Russian Patriarchate’s Department of Foreign Relations.
“Such statements do not contribute to a constructive dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church, which is especially necessary at this time,” the statement said.
It also emerged on Wednesday that the patriarch is among the individuals to be included in the proposed sixth round of EU sanctions against Russia, according to two sources with access to the full documents.
The sources said that the proposed draft was sent to the ambassadors for their review.
A source from the European Commission said that at this point the names could be deleted or added at the discretion of member states.
The Russian Orthodox Church spokesman, Vladimir Leguida, was quoted by the TASS news agency as saying the sanctions were not in line with “common sense”.
‘The most random [these] Punishments become, the more they lose touch with common sense and the more difficult it becomes to reach peace, which is what the Russian Orthodox Church prays for in every service with the blessing of His Holiness the Patriarch, help all the affected Ukrainian. “The conflict only serves to confirm his statements,” Leguida said in a Telegram post on Wednesday.
“Only those who are completely ignorant of the history of our church can seek to intimidate the clergy and its faithful by putting together some lists,” said Leguida.
In March the patriarch said the conflict was an extension of a fundamental cultural clash between the broader Russian world and Western liberal values, exemplified by expressions of gay pride.
Experts say Kirill’s comments provide important insights into Putin’s larger spiritual vision for a return to the Russian Empire, where the Orthodox religion plays a pivotal role.
But the tough stance of the Russian patriarch costs him his followers.
In March, the Russian Orthodox Church in Amsterdam announced it was cutting ties with the leader, joining a growing number of priests and churches who had abandoned Moscow because of the war in Ukraine.
CNN’s Anastasia Graham-Yooll, Luke McGee and Radina Gigova contributed to this report.
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