Pope Francis has blasted the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church and described him as 'Putin's altar boy' following his support for his army's actions in Ukraine.
The sensational attack on the controversial holy man comes in a rare act of criticism of a fellow religious leader by a modern-day Pope.
In recent weeks Patriarch Kirill of Moscow has blessed Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine, and claimed that the nation has the right to use force against its neighbours to ensure its own "security".
Krill's actions and his close relationship with the Kremlin has since resulted in a number of Orthodox churches across the world requesting a move away from Russian leadership.
The Russian Orthodox membership of the World Council of Churches, a global Christian organisation which includes the Church of England, Baptist and Methodist churches, was also called into question last month by former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.
Pope Francis has now become the latest global church figure to hit out at Krill in a new interview with Italy's Corriere Della Sera newspaper published on Tuesday (May 3).
Comparing his position to Krill's, the head of the Roman Catholic Church was quoted as saying: "We are pastors of the same people of God. That is why we have to seek paths of peace, to cease the fire of weapons. The patriarch cannot become Putin's altar boy."
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Francis, 85, had not specifically mentioned Russia or Putin publicly since the start of the conflict on February 24.
The pope also revealed that he had made a request to visit Vladimir Putin personally and was "willing to go to Moscow", but had not yet received any reply.
Elsewhere he stated that not be making a visit Kyiv for now, despite suggesting he would do so in comments made last month.
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