POPE FOR PEACE This Vatican Media photo taken on March 16, 2022 (March 17 in Manila) shows Pope Francis meeting with attendees holding the Ukrainian flag during his weekly general audience at the Paul 6th hall in the Vatican. AFP PHOTO
POPE FOR PEACE This Vatican Media photo taken on March 16, 2022 (March 17 in Manila) shows Pope Francis meeting with attendees holding the Ukrainian flag during his weekly general audience at the Paul 6th hall in the Vatican. AFP PHOTO

VATICAN CITY: The Church "must not use the language of politics, but the language of Jesus," Pope Francis told Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill during a video meeting about Ukraine on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila), the Vatican said.

Kirill is a key pillar of President Vladimir Putin's ruling apparatus and shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine last month, called Moscow's opponents in that country "evil forces."

Francis, the 85-year-old head of the Roman Catholic Church, told him that "we must unite in the effort to help peace, to help those who suffer, to seek ways of peace, to stop the gunfire," a Vatican statement said.

It said that both religious leaders emphasized the importance of negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv, with the pontiff saying: "Those who pay the cost of war are the people, the Russian soldiers and the people who are bombed and die."

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The Vatican said the Argentine pope thanked the Russian patriarch for agreeing to the talks, which it said were motivated by a desire "as shepherds of their people" to find a path for peace in Ukraine.

The pope concluded by expressing his sorrow for all those killed, saying: "War is never the way."

A statement from Patriarch Kirill's office had said the two leaders urged negotiations to reach a "just peace," and discussed how to handle the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.

Francis has called for an end to the conflict on more than one occasion, and although he has condemned the "massacre" in Ukraine, he has avoided mentioning Russia by name.

Before the invasion, which began on February 24, the pontiff said last December that he was ready to go to Moscow to visit Kirill, with whom he had a historic meeting in Cuba in 2016.

It was the first encounter between the heads of the two largest Christian churches since Christianity split into Western and Eastern branches in the 11th century, an event known as "The Great Schism."

Kirill also discussed the Ukraine conflict with the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby on Wednesday, the Russian church said.

"A detailed discussion of the critical situation in Ukraine took place," the Russian church said, adding that the pair discussed "the humanitarian aspect" of the crisis.