Nur-Sultan (Kazakhstan) (AFP) -
The Russian Orthodox Church said Wednesday it was ready for a new meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis after weeks of diplomatic tensions sparked by the Ukraine war.
The news came after the pope opened an inter-faith meeting in ex-Soviet Kazakhstan where he lashed the manipulation of faith for political ends.
The gathering is being attended by around 100 delegations from 50 countries, but Putin's close ally, Patriarch Kirill, is a notable absentee.
The pope has previously called for peace and denounced a 'cruel and senseless war', but Kirill has firmly defended Putin's operation.
After opening the meeting in the capital Nur-Sultan, the pope spoke with Kirill's 'foreign minister,' Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk, for around 15 minutes.
Anthony said a meeting between the two pontiffs was 'a possibility,' provided it was 'well prepared.'
'We need to see when, where (this would happen) and the most important thing is that we want something concrete to come out of the meeting, such as the joint call that we had in Havana,' he told journalists, referring to a historic 2016 meeting between Francis and Kirill in Cuba -- the first since the schism in the Christian church in 1054.
Anthony said the pope himself thought a meeting was 'needed' and regretted that a meeting planned in June in Jerusalem had been scrapped 'by the Holy See.'
'We were ready for this meeting but it was cancelled by the Holy See,' after an announcement by Pope Francis in an interview to Italian daily Corriere della Sera.
'This interview was really unexpected, this type of statement clearly doesn't strengthen unity among Christians, we were surprised,' Anthony said.
'But we need to move forward, it is important that the two religious leaders forge that path so that we, Christians, can help people.'
- 'Manipulations' -
Pope Francis, in remarks that drew applause, warned on Wednesday that faith should not be manipulated to defend conflict or buttress power.
'May we never justify violence. May we never allow the sacred to be exploited by the profane. The sacred must never be a prop for power, nor power a prop for the sacred,' he said.
'Let us free ourselves of those reductive and destructive notions that offend the name of God by harshness, extremism and forms of fundamentalism, and profane it through hatred, fanaticism, and terrorism,' he said.
'Our time (is) still plagued by the scourge of war,' Francis said.
'A leap forward is required, and it needs to come from us,' he said, although he did not name the Ukraine war specifically.
A message from Kirill, published on the Orthodox Church's website and sent to participants of the meeting, said that 'we have witnessed distortions of historical facts and unprecedented manipulations of mass consciousness.'
'More than ever before, people find it difficult to navigate the flow of information, resist ideological indoctrination, and maintain a sober mind and peace of mind' Kirill said.
Russia paints itself as a target of anti-Russian campaigns that it says 'the collective West' are conducting to try to shore up waning influence.
The 85-year-old Argentinian pope, who is forced by knee pain to use a wheelchair, arrived on Tuesday in Nur-Sultan for his 38th trip abroad since becoming pontiff in 2013.
He is the second pope to visit Kazakhstan after John Paul II's trip in September 2001.
The grand Imam Of Al Azhar mosque Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb, and representatives of many different faiths and international organisations are also taking part in the meetings.