On March 20 of this year Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew became the first leader of the Orthodox Church to attend a papal inaugural mass since 1054 when the great schism split the church into east and west. On the same day, the pope also received a letter of congratulations from Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Pope Francis has invited Vladimir Putin to meet him in Rome on November 25, and there is a great deal of speculation that this meeting will go a long way to healing the rift between the western church and the eastern church.
Vladimir Putin publicly professes his faith as a member of the Russian Orthodox Church and has urged the two sides to resolve their conflict. It is likely that Putin will invite Francis to visit Moscow. Francis would require a matching invitation from the Russian Church in order to come. Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI had invitations from Putin to come to Moscow, but neither received an invitation from the Russian Orthodox Church.
Flurry of Vatican-Russian Orthodox talks precede Putin visit to Pope Francis
VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis has met with the foreign minister of the Russian Orthodox Church ahead of a Nov. 25 visit to the Vatican by President Vladimir Putin.
The Vatican released no details of Tuesday's meeting with Metropolitan Hilarion, in Rome for a Catholic-Orthodox conference on family values.
Simultaneously in Moscow, a top Italian cardinal involved in Catholic-Orthodox dialogue, Cardinal Angelo Scola, met with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill.
While there was no word about any possible meeting between Kirill and Francis — long-sought by the Vatican — officials say it's likely Francis will meet the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, in Jerusalem in the first half of 2014.