ROME – Pope Francis sent a message of congratulations to Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill this Sunday for Orthodox Easter, praying for the Holy Spirit to “make us true peacemakers.”

“May the Holy Spirit transform our hearts and make us true peacemakers, especially for war-torn Ukraine, so that the great Paschal passage from death to new life in Christ may become a reality as soon as possible for the Ukrainian people, who long for a new dawn that will put an end to the darkness of war,” Francis wrote.

The message, sent Sunday, was not published by the Vatican but by the official website of the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Francis said in these days when “we feel the full weight of the suffering of the members of our human family, crushed by violence, war and the manifold manifestations of injustice, we again admire with grateful hearts that the Lord has taken upon himself all the evil and all the pain of our world.”

Christ did this, the Pope wrote, forever and throughout the universe, by the power of his Cross.

The last direct contact between the pope and the patriarch was on March 16, through a video call that took place in the presence of Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, and Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Relations.

That meeting, as reported by the director of the Vatican Press Office, Matteo Bruni, focused on “the war in Ukraine and the role of Christians and their pastors in doing everything possible for peace to prevail.”

During the months preceding the war, the Holy See and the Patriarchate of Moscow had been working on a possible second meeting between Francis and Kirill in Jerusalem in June, after the trip that the pontiff has scheduled for Lebanon. However, Francis recently told the Argentine newspaper La Nacion the meeting has been canceled.

Pope Francis and Kirill met in 2016 in Cuba in the first ever meeting between a Catholic pope and a Russian Orthodox Patriarch.

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