07/05/2019, 10.06
RUSSIA - VATICAN
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Putin and Francis: defense of Christian values

by Vladimir Rozanskij

This third visit by Putin to Pope Francis, after those of 2013 and 2015, was particularly cordial and "relaxed", without excessive pressure due to international contingencies, and without showing any particular striking gestures in the Russian-Vatican relations. It was more than anything else a "staged confirmation" of broad harmony.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Returning to Russia after a lightning visit to Rome on 4 July, President Putin told journalists that the positions of Russia and the Vatican coincide in the defense of traditional values ​​and in the development of inter-religious dialogue and civilizations . "We also spoke of difficulties in defending the Christian population of the Middle East, and humanitarian aid to Syria," said Putin.

Several aspects of bilateral relations between the Russian Federation and the Holy See were considered: "We agreed to pay particular attention to collaboration in the sphere of culture, education and health care," the Russian leader added.

During the visit, a memorandum of understanding was signed on common actions in the health field, strengthening the international dimension of the “Bambino Gesù” OPBG hospital in Rome, as also confirmed by the press release issued by the Vatican Press Office.

The agreement was signed by the Russian Health Minister, Veronika Skortsova, and by Msgr. Paolo Borgia, Assessor for General Affairs of the Vatican Secretariat of State, establishing a program of collaboration between the "Bambino Gesù" and the health facilities of the Russian Federation.

Also according to Putin's report to journalists, the most urgent questions of international politics have been touched on with Pope Francis, especially the situation in Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela, together with issues related to ecology and "some significant issues for the life of the Catholic Church in Russia ”. Even at the last official meeting in Russia in 2017 with the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the legal status of Catholic missionaries in Russia was discussed.

Putin assured that the meeting was "warm", and thanked the Pontiff "for the time he dedicated to me and for the interesting and constructive conversation, a very beneficial conversation". The Pope expressed his "sincere and boundless satisfaction" to Putin, as was also communicated by the Vatican.

At the end of the meeting there was a greeting to the Russian delegation and the exchange of gifts. The Pope gifted the Russian head of state a medal commemorating the 100 years of the end of the First World War, and that of the sixth year of his pontificate.

He then delivered a copy of the Message for World Peace Day on 1 January last, signed today for Putin, the apostolic exhortations Gaudete et exultate on the call to holiness in the contemporary world and Christus vivit to the young and to all the People of God, a copy of the Abu Dhabi Document on human fraternity for world peace and common coexistence, and finally an etching depicting the Vatican Basilica and St. Peter's Square, as if to renew the wish to "return" to Rome for the President. President Putin gifted the Pope an icon of Saints Peter and Paul, a photographic book and a copy of the film "Sin" by Russian director Andrei Konchaovsky.

This third visit by Putin to Pope Francis, after those of 2013 and 2015, was in short particularly cordial and "relaxed", without excessive pressure due to international contingencies, and without showing any particular striking gestures in the Russian-Vatican relationship. It was more than anything else a "confirmation " of a broad-based harmony, which according to the protagonists will influence a more "dialoguing and multipolar" conception of international and ecumenical relations.

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