VATICAN, April 22. /TASS/. Pope Francis expressed regrets that a meeting with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia planned for June in Jerusalem will have to be postponed in an interview with Argentina’s La Nacion published on Friday.
That said, he assessed his relations with the 16th Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church as "very good." "I regret that the Vatican had to postpone the second meeting with Patriarch Kirill which we planned for June in Jerusalem. Yet our diplomats realized that our meeting at this time may lead to a major confusion," the Pope said.
"I have always supported inter-religious dialogue. When I was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, I was establishing productive dialogue between Christians, Jews and Muslims. This was one of the initiatives that I am particularly proud of. I am promoting the same policy in the Vatican. As you heard me say many times already, concord is more important to me than conflict," the Pope said.
Last December, Pope Francis himself announced a new meeting with the Patriarch, the second one after the Havana meeting in February, 2016. Later, a series of contacts took place, including a visit to the Vatican by Metropolitan of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations Hilarion where preparations were discussed. Pope Francis suggested the Middle East as a possible location for the meeting. Work on preparing for it continued although there have been suggestions that it may be postponed over the situation in Ukraine.
Recently, media outlets reported information that a possibility of extending the Pope’s June trip to Lebanon was being researched so he can come to Jerusalem later to meet with the Patriarch. Russia’s Orthodox Church did not rule out such a possibility yet noted that any information on the matter is premature. It is notable that the Vatican has not officially announced the Pope’s visit to Lebanon even though he repeatedly stated his wish to do so. Lebanese authorities reported that they were expecting the Pope on June 12.