Pope Francis on Thursday received Vladimir Putin in an audience at the Vatican. This was the Russian president's sixth visit to the Vatican, and his third audience with Pope Francis.
Following the meeting which lasted about one hour, a communiqué released by the Holy See Press Office said the Pope received the President of the Russian Federation in the Apostolic Palace, and that President Putin subsequently met with the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and with the Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher.
The communiqué continued saying that "During the cordial discussions, both Parties expressed their satisfaction at the development of bilateral relations, further strengthened by the protocol of understanding signed today regarding the collaboration between the "Bambino Gesù" Paediatric Hospital and the paediatric hospitals of the Russian Federation".
Other issues discussed included questions of relevance to the life of the Catholic Church in Russia.
Pope Francis and President Putin also went on to consider the ecological question and various themes relating to current international affairs, with particular reference to Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela.
The two men met for the first time in 2013, shortly after Pope Francis' election to the papacy; and then in 2015. The urgent need to pursue peace in the Middle East, and especially in Syria, likewise featured prominently in earlier conversations. The conflict in Ukraine was also a focus of the meeting in 2015.
President Putin has also met with Pope Francis' predecessors in the See of Peter. His first audience with a Pope came in the Jubilee Year 2000, when he met with Pope Saint John Paul II. At the time, President Putin noted the importance of the mission of the Holy See in the process of integration between East and West.
Putin said later: "….In the morning, I had a meeting with Pope Francis. We discussed issues concerning the development of relations between Russia and the Vatican, and we agreed to pay special attention to cooperation in the field of culture, education and healthcare. We discussed the matter of protecting the Christian population of the Middle East and humanitarian assistance in Syria. It is important that the positions of Russia and the Vatican are harmonious in what concerns the protection of traditional values, and the promotion of interreligious, inter-civilisational dialogue."
The Vatican Children's Hospital is already active in Russia with specialized training programmes in neurology and neurosurgery for medical staff of the Morozov Children's Hospital in Moscow and at the Moscow Research and Clinical Center for Neuropsychiatry with projects to develop protocols for the diagnosis and treatment of children with epilepsy.
Read more about the Vatican-Moscow hospital/research programme discussed yesterday:
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