Pope Francis met by video conference with Moscow Patriarch Kirill Wednesday to discuss the war in Ukraine and “the role of Christians and their pastors in doing everything to ensure that peace prevails,” the Vatican announced.

“Those who pay the price for the war are the people; they are the Russian soldiers and the people who are bombed and die,” Pope Francis told the patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, a key supporter of President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine.

“As pastors, we have the duty to be close and help all the people who suffer from war,” the pope continued, according to a statement by the director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni.

“At one time there was talk in our Churches of holy war or just war,” Francis said. “Today we cannot speak like that. The Christian awareness of the importance of peace has developed.”

“Wars are always unjust,” he continued, “because those who pay are the people of God. Our hearts cannot fail to weep in front of the children, the women killed, all the victims of war.”

“War is never the way,” he said. “The Spirit who unites us asks us as pastors to help the peoples who suffer from war.”

The meeting was also attended by Vatican Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, and Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Department of External Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate.

In the meeting, the pope and the patriarch agreed that “the Church must not use the language of politics, but the language of Jesus,” the Vatican spokesman said.

“We are pastors of the same Holy People who believe in God, in the Most Holy Trinity, in the Holy Mother of God: for this reason we must unite in the effort to promote peace, to help those who suffer, to seek ways of peace, to stop the fire,” Francis said.

Patriarch Kirill, who has been called “Putin’s lapdog” for his unswerving loyalty to the Russian leader, said this week that the war is not Russia’s fault but that of the West.

Western leaders “make their intentions blatantly obvious – to bring sufferings not only to the Russian political or military leaders but specifically to the Russian people,” Kirill said in a March 10 letter. “Russophobia is spreading across the Western world at an unprecedented pace.”

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