July 5 (UPI) — Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Pope Francis on Thursday in their third meeting since 2013.
The Vatican called the discussions “cordial” in a statement, adding that “both Parties expressed their satisfaction at the development of bilateral relations.”
Putin arrived an hour late for the meeting, during which the two discussed the role of the Catholic Church in Russia and international issues.
European liberals and nationalists look to the pope and Putin as leaders of opposing worldviews, with some differences dating to the East-West Schism of 1054.
Last year, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine split from the Russian Orthodox Church. Pope Francis is expected to meet Friday with church leaders in Ukraine to discuss conflict there.
The pope and Putin exchanged gifts during Thursday’s meeting. Putin gave Pope Francis a copy of the film “Sin” directed by Andrei Konchalovsky. The Pope’s gifts to Putin included a copy of his “Message for the World Day of Peace” and “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together.”
Through an interpreter, Putin thanked the Pope for his time and said the meeting was “a very substantive, interesting discussion.”
During his visit to Rome, Putin also was set to meet with Italian leaders, including President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.