Pope Francis meets Russian President Vladimir Putin on the occasion of a private audience at the Vatican, Wednesday, June 10, 2015. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, Pool)
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A meeting between Pope Francis and Russia's Orthodox Patriarch Kirill Friday could not happen without a green light from President Vladimir Putin, diplomats and analysts say, and he may be one the beneficiaries.Putin has aligned himself closely with the Russian Orthodox Church, making Friday's two-hour private meeting not just a religious event but politically charged as well, especially when Russia is at odds with the West over Ukraine and Syria.Relations between Moscow and the Vatican have improved steadily since the reign of Pope John Paul II, a Pole who had an inbred suspicion of Russia and who died in 2005 .In an interview with Reuters, Cardinal Kurt Koch, head of the Vatican office for Christian unity, was noncommittal when asked if the meeting could help Putin.The meeting was brokered by Cuban President Raul Castro, who hosted the pope in Cuba last year.
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