Pope Francis has greeted the foreign envoy of the Russian Orthodox Church, just days after revealing a secret “mission” is under way to try to put an end to the war in Ukraine.
Metropolitan Anthony attended Francis’ weekly general audience in St Peter’s Square before greeting the Pope at the end.
He presented Francis with an icon, which the Pope blessed.
Anthony was later seen being led off the stage by one of Francis’ aides.
While in Budapest, he met with Metropolitan Hilarion, Anthony’s predecessor as the foreign envoy of Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian church who has strongly supported the Kremlin’s war and justified it on religious grounds.
During a press conference en route home, Francis praised both Hilarion and Anthony as knowledgeable, as well as being his main conduits to reach Patriarch Kirill.
He was asked if Hilarion and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has maintained relations with Moscow, could facilitate a mediation to the war.
He repeated his willingness to do whatever it takes to end the war.
“Also, there is a mission going on now, but it is not public yet. Let’s see how … When it is public I will talk about it,” he said.
The Vatican has a tradition of diplomatic neutrality, while working behind the scenes to end conflicts.
Last week, before Francis went to Hungary, Ukraine’s prime minister called on the pontiff and asked his help in particular to help facilitate the return of Ukrainian children taken to Russia.