Pope Francis revealed that following a speech he delivered to the European Parliament in which he described Europe as “haggard” and "now a 'grandmother', no longer fertile and vibrant." Speaking to Italian daily Corriere della Sera in the Feb. 8 report, Francis said he an angry phone call from German Chancellor Angela Merkel after the 2014 speech. He told the newspaper, “She was a bit angry because I had compared Europe to a barren woman, incapable of producing children."
 
Francis added, "She asked me if I really thought Europe could no longer make children…I told her yes it can, and many, because Europe has strong and deep roots," he said, adding that "in the darkest moments, it has always shown itself to have unexpected resources."
 
Moving on to geopolitics, Francis said that he thinks Russia – currently conducting its own bombing campaign in Syria against enemies of President Bashr al-Assad – may make important contributions to world peace. In advance of his planned meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, the pope said "You have to build bridges, step by step," he told the newspaper. "Up to the point where you can shake the hand of the person on the other side."
 
The pope and patriarch are due to meet in Cuba on February 12. The topic of the two-hour talk, the first since the break-up of the two communions in the 11th Century, will be on the persecution of Christians, especially in the Middle East.
 
Francis added, "Russia has a lot to give," while emphasizing that the Vatican and Moscow's views had converged at times over recent crises in the Middle East. Russian President Vladimir Putin has been assiduous in his close relations with the Russian patriarch and has sought to paint himself as a defender of Christians in the Middle East.

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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