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Putin keeps the Pope waiting again before fresh talks at Vatican

Pope Francis greeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Vatican
Pope Francis greeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Vatican

By Staff Reporter

Vladimir Putin kept the Pope waiting for an hour before he arrived for a meeting at the Vatican yesterday.

The Russian President has a habit of turning up late for meetings with Francis, having been 50 minutes late for their first meeting in 2013 and over an hour late for their second in 2015.

"Thank you for the time you have dedicated to me," Mr Putin said after almost an hour of talks. "It was a very substantive, interesting discussion," he told the Pope within earshot of reporters as they exchanged gifts in Francis' private study.

The Vatican said the talks concentrated on the situations in Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela.

Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who did not join the talks, later held a meeting with the Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and its foreign minister, Archbishop Paul Gallagher.

Pope Francis gave Mr Putin a signed copy of his peace message for this year and a large 18th century etching of St Peter's Square, "so you don't forget Rome".

Mr Putin gave the Pope a DVD of a movie about the Renaissance master painter and sculptor Michelangelo by the Russian filmmaker Andrei Konchalovsky and a large painted Orthodox icon of the apostles Peter and Paul.

Today, leaders of Ukraine's Catholic Church begin two days of meetings at the Vatican to discuss problems in the former Soviet republic. Ukraine remains a bone of contention between the Vatican and Russia.

When they met in 2015, the Pope urged Mr Putin to make a "sincere and great effort" to achieve peace in Ukraine and help end fighting between government forces and pro-Russian separatist rebels in the east.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, for centuries effectively under the control of the Russian Orthodox Church, declared its independence and set up a national Church. Mr Putin has aligned himself closely with the Russian Orthodox Church, and Moscow opposed the split, saying it had been done for political rather than religious motives.

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