Will Pope Francis and Russian Patriarch Kirill finally meet in this tiny European country?

Will Pope Francis and Russian Patriarch Kirill finally meet in this tiny European country?

Pope Francis meets with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in Havana, Cuba. on Feb. 12, 2016. / Vatican Media.

Rome Newsroom, Oct 14, 2022 / 03:46 am (CNA).

During a personal meeting with Pope Francis on Oct. 10, the Prime Minister of Montenegro proposed that an eventual meeting between Pope Francis and the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow could take place in his country.

Speaking with CNA on Oct. 11, Dritan Abazović noted that “we are a tiny and peaceful country with no political pretension. We do not have big economy in competition with other countries. We are an Orthodox country, but we are filled with a spirit of dialogue. So, we can be the country where the pope can organize important meetings with other global religious leaders.”

Abazović said: “I invited the pope to visit Montenegro, and I hinted to the pope that Montenegro, if he agrees with that, might be the right place to try to arrange the meeting with Patriarch Kirill with the leader of the Russian Orthodox Orthodox Church in Montenegro. So, Montenegro is like an Orthodox country.”

In 2020, there were rumors about a possible papal visit to Montenegro. This would have been a stop-over during the trip to Cyprus and Greece. However, the journey to Cyprus and Greece took place in 2021 and did not include a visit to Montenegro.

Pope Francis speaking with Dritan Abazović, Prime Minister of Montenegro, on Oct. 10, 2022, at the Vatican. Vatican Media

Talks for a second meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia  — after their encounter in 2016 — have been ongoing since before the war in Ukraine.

The pope and the patriarch did meet via video conference on Mar. 6, and a personal encounter was supposed to take place in Jerusalem on Jun. 14 at the end of a trip to Lebanon that also ended up being canceled.

Moreover, Pope Francis later said in an interview that a meeting with the Russian patriarch was deemed not opportune.

Another place for an encounter was Kazakhstan on Sep. 14, where both Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill were scheduled to participate in the Congress of the Leaders of the World and Traditional religions. Patriarch Kirill, however, withdrew his participation shortly before the meeting.

It is in this context that the prime minister of Montenegro now proposes his country for such a meeting. The nation in Southeastern Europe, slightly smaller than the U.S. state of Connectictut, is home to about 620,000 people and was once a part of Yugoslavia. Today, it shares a border with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo and Serbia.

CNA interviewed the Montenegrin Prime Minister right after the presentation of Abazović’s book “A critique of global ethics” in Rome. Pope Francis received a personal copy at his meeting with the prime minister.

“When the Pope saw the title, he exclaimed: ‘These are my topics, I am speaking about this all the time.’”

Abazović underscored that a critique of global ethics is needed because “globalization is not bad, but we are destroying the globe because of globalization, and so we need to find a way to make globalization better, to make globalization more functional, more just.”

The Prime Minister of Montenegro added that “globalization rose out of the failure of the State of a model,” while now the issue of nation States is grabbing the headlines again and is making its way into political movements.

“We need, above all, solidarity among nations. We had this problem of Corona, which started in China but became a global moment, and we needed solidarity. And now we cannot wind down the aggression of the Russian Federation to Ukraine as a local issue. There is an energy crisis involved and connected with it, for example. So, one country cannot overcome it. Whether it is a superpower or not, it can’t solve all the issues alone.”

Pope Francis greeting the Prime Minister of Montenegro, Dritan Abazović, at the Vatican on Oct. 10, 2022. Vatican Media

According to Abazović, “we need to think about more, more in terms of global unity and of course, global changes pertaining to global ethics. We do not need to quit the United Nations. We need a more productive, more effective UN.”

The relations with the pope are crucial in pursuing that goal because the Roman pontiff is “somehow leader of around 1.3 billion people, and he plays a critical role in the global society.”

There is no doubt in the prime minister’s mind: The pope’s support, along with that of other religious leaders, can make a difference.

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