Pope Francis holds first meeting with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, but pair avoid relations between Vatican and the Orthodox Church.
Pope Francis and Russian president Vladimir Putin met on Monday and discussed the Middle East and problems faced by Christians across the world, but did not touch on the strained relationship between the Vatican and the Orthodox Church.
The 35-minute meeting at the Vatican was the first between Pope Francis and Putin, who met the pontiff's two immediate predecessors, Benedict and John Paul II.
'It was quite a cordial and constructive meeting,' Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told reporters after the encounter. Putin had arrived around 45 minutes late because of transport problems.
Relations between the Catholic Church and Russia have long been uneasy because of accusations that the Vatican has tried to poach believers from the Orthodox Church, a charge it denies.
Putin brought a greeting to the pope from Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, but did not talk about inter-church matters, Lombardi said. There was also no discussion of a possible visit to Russia by Pope Francis.
President Putin met with John Paul II and Benedict XVI too but never invited them to Moscow.
Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation