When Vladimir Putin met Pope Francis this week at the Vatican, it was not the lion meeting the lamb. Pope Francis exhibits a simple life style and aligns himself with the poor, but he is far from a pushover.
In September of this year Pope Francis sent an official letter to Putin who was hosting the G20 conference in St. Petersburg. In strong terms Pope Francis insisted that Putin use the Russian Federation’s position as an ally of Syria to help end the hostilities of the Syrian government against its own people.
Putin can only be using this meeting with Pope Francis to leverage his standing among world leaders. He was recently listed as the most influential man in the world. Pope Francis is number four–a power to be reckoned with. These are two heavyweights sparring on the world’s stage.
Pope Francis wants an end to the suffering of the Syrian people and he wants protection guarantees for Christians throughout the Middle East. He also wants help in securing more acceptance for the Catholic Church in the Russian Federation, a land which up until recently the Orthodox Church considered its own pasture: No Roman Catholic sheep stealing allowed!
Vladimir Putin presented an icon of Our Lady to Pope Francis, but first he reverenced the image with a kiss. That gesture will not be forgotten as the former head of the KGB bows to a greater power. Was it a sincere sign of hope or a cleverly staged diversion to capture the attention of Pope Francis, if but for a moment?
Putin did not invite Pope Francis to Russia for a visit. I doubt whether this is a snub. Rather, it seems to me Putin is laying the groundwork for a possible papal visit later on. I’m not certain that Pope Francis would accept the invitation until Putin begins to act more humanely from his exalted position of influence.
Two Lions circle one another in the ring this week, one a vigorous warrior and the other, an experienced competitor. Let’s see who roars loudest.