3 Jul 2019 19:14

Putin in Vatican to discuss restoration of Christian shrines in Syria, Roman Church's humanitarian projects in Donbas, Venezuela

MOSCOW. July 3 (Interfax) - Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit the Vatican on July 4 and meet with Pope Francis to discuss a number of pressing international issues, including the crises in Syria, Ukraine, and Venezuela, Russian presidential aide Yury Ushakov said.

"We are expecting them to touch upon the situation in Syria, i.e., the potential swift reconstruction of its civilian infrastructure, humanitarian aid for victims, as well as touching upon the work of restoring and preserving the Christian shrines and relevant sites in Syria," Ushakov told reporters on Wednesday in advance of the visit.

The two are also expected to discuss the situation in southeastern Ukraine, "the prospects of implementing some of the Roman Catholic Church's humanitarian projects in Donbas," the aide said.

Putin and Pope Francis are additionally "planning to discuss the situation in Venezuela," Ushakov said.

Both Russia and Vatican approach from similar or "practically identical positions" issues such as fighting terrorism and religious extremism, preventing economic and manmade disasters, protecting Christians in conflict zones, defending common human values and developing inter-religious and inter-civilizational dialogues, Ushakov said.

The visit will begin with an introduction to members of Vatican's ceremonial corps, the aide said.

"After that the president will meet the Pope for a conversation, then the Pope will be introduced to the Russian delegation, followed by a photo ceremony and an exchange of presents. After that our president will have a brief conversation with Vatican's Secretary of State Pietro Parolin," Ushakov said.

He recalled that this year marks the tenth anniversary since Russia and Vatican exchanged their ambassadors.

"Our cultural-humanitarian exchanges with Vatican have been quite active, with various arts exhibitions being held," he said.

An integral part of this relationship is the dialogue between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, he said.

"These relations were taken to a new level after the historical meeting, in Havana on February 12, 2016, the first one since the Great Schism of 1054, between Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and Francis," Ushakov said.