VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis visits the Russian embassy in Rome to personally express his concern about the war in Ukraine, in an extraordinary papal gesture that has no recent precedent.
Popes usually receive ambassadors and heads of state in the Vatican. For Francis to travel a short distance to the Russian embassy outside the Vatican walls is a sign of his strength of feeling about Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Vatican officials say they know of no such previous papal initiative.
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni confirms the pontiff wanted “clearly to express his concern about the war.” Pope Francis was there for just over a half-hour, Bruni says.
Francis has called for dialogue to end the conflict and has urged the faithful to set next Wednesday as a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Ukraine. But he has refrained from publicly calling out Russia, presumably for fear of antagonizing the Russian Orthodox Church, with which he is trying to build stronger ties.