As the Russian Orthodox Church’s chief ecumenical officer, Metropolitan Hilarion met with Pope Francis at the Vatican in December 2021.
The meeting raised hopes of a second encounter between the pope and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church. But the plans were abandoned following the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine.
In recent months Kazakhstan has been discussed as a potential location for a meeting between Pope Francis and Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, as both are expected to attend an interreligious congress there in September.
The Moscow patriarch has faced intense criticism over his stance on the war and narrowly avoided being placed on a European Union sanctions list after reported opposition from Hungary, one of the EU’s 27 member states.
Orthodox Christian media had suggested that Metropolitan Hilarion was seeking to distance himself from Patriarch Kirill in recent months.
The Russian Orthodox Church is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Church with an estimated 150 million members, accounting for more than half of the world’s Orthodox Christians.