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Pope Francis has committed to visiting the capital of Ukraine in the coming months, and has hinted at a possible trip to Moscow, according to Catholic leaders close to the pontiff.
Vatican Secretary for Relations with States Monsignor Paul Richard Gallagher spoke with the press over the weekend about the Holy Father’s travel plans in the coming months.
Asked about the pope’s next Apostolic Journey after his trip to Canada later this month, Gallagher confirmed that preparations are being made for a stint in Ukraine. The Catholic prelate even touched on the possibility of a Russian trip, which would be the first in history.
“The Pope is very convinced that if he were to make a visit it would have positive results,” said Gallagher. “He has said that he will go to Ukraine, and he has always been willing to visit Moscow and meet with the Russian authorities.”
Francis has repeatedly addressed the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine. The pontiff previously said there has been communication between Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov about a potential trip to Moscow.
No pope has ever paid a visit to Moscow, and Francis has harshly criticized Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. In June, Francis accused Moscow of waging a “cruel and senseless war of aggression” against its neighbor.
The Vatican originally asked about visiting several months ago, but, according to Francis, Moscow said it was not the right time.
“I would like to go [to Ukraine], and I wanted to go to Moscow first,” he said. “We exchanged messages about this because I thought that if the Russian president gave me a small window to serve the cause of peace…”
“And now it is possible, after I come back from Canada, it is possible that I manage to go to Ukraine,” he continued. “The first thing is to go to Russia to try to help in some way, but I would like to go to both capitals.”
Pope Francis also intends to meet with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow at the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in September. While no official plans have been made, the event in Kazakhstan is scheduled to have both spiritual leaders in attendance.
Patriarch Kirill is the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Pope Francis first met with Patriarch Kirill in 2016 — the first-ever papal meeting with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. The summit was a historic development in the 1,000-year schism that divided Christianity.
Orthodox and Catholic clergy recognize each others’ claims to apostolic successions and authority, but have been divorced since 1054.
The Great Schism, as it is called historically, was the separation of Eastern Orthodox churches from Western Catholic churches over theological and political issues of papal supremacy, the nature of the Trinity, and more.