Two powerful personalities met last week at the Vatican in Rome. While direct reports of what they spoke about have not yet cleared the Russian and Roman spin doctors, it appears that Pope Francis believes he has made some headway with Putin, the Russian president.
The Pope invited Putin for a visit, according to Vatican sources, in order to discuss, among other things, the danger of overzealous populism and the growing problems of anti-immigrant politics in Eastern Europe — where Russia has always had a dominating influence.
This was their third meeting in the past ten years.
Russia is viewed by many Italians as a better run country than their own, and several pro-Russia political groups have said that Putin is a better example of Christian living than is the current Pope.
Pope Francis has consistently championed the cause of liberalism and of immigrants, pleading for understanding and tolerance. Putin has said little about the immigration issue, but Russia itself has not welcomed immigrants and makes it nearly impossible for refugees to enter the country under any conditions.
Putin, as the secular head of the Russian Orthodox Church, is working with Pope Francis to bring about a reconciliation of the two religions, which have been split for over six hundred years.