Putin also briefly spoke with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States during his time at the Vatican.
The day before Putin’s visit Pope Francis expressed his condolences and closeness to the families of the 14 Russian sailors who died when a deep-sea submarine caught fire in an Artic port July 2. Russian officials confirmed that the top-secret submarine was nuclear-powered less than one hour before the papal audience was scheduled.
“The Holy Father was informed of the Russian submarine tragedy. It expresses its condolences and its closeness to the victims' families and those affected by this disaster,” Holy See press office interim director Alessandro Gisotti said July 3.
The Russian Ambassador to the Holy See Aleksandr Avdeev said ahead of the meeting that he expected Putin and the Roman pontiff to discuss “the instability of international relations, the crisis in the Middle East, the fate of Syria, the problem of nuclear disarmament, the situation in Iran.”
“The time has come when Catholics can no longer solve many problems and open challenges, without taking into account the political logic of Russia and the experience of our Orthodoxy,” Avdeev said in an interview with Ogonek, a Russian magazine.
Pope Francis and Putin were also expected to discuss the situation in Ukraine after the Ukrainian Orthodox Church split with the Russian Orthodox Church last year. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople formally recognized the independence of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine in January.