pope Francis, papa.jpg
Photograph: EPA/FILIPPO MONTEFORTE

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has invited Pope Francis to meet with the head of the Russian-Orthodox Church for a peace summit, state agency Belta reported Saturday.

The pope met Lukaschenko at the Vatican on Saturday, after which the Belarusian leader said the ongoing Ukraine conflict required a new initiative, "preferably also spiritual," according to the report.

"Everything is in God's hand," Lukashenko was quoted as saying. "If he gives his blessing, then the supreme heads of the Catholic and Orthodox churches will met on Belarusian soil."

The authoritarian leader said he also wanted to invite Ukrainian religious leaders to the summit, as well as representatives of Judaism and Islam.

"They should sit together, talk and then pray before millions of pilgrims in the name of peace," he said.

After the meeting, the Vatican praised Minsk's role in the peace efforts in Ukraine. The Belarusian capital was the base for negotations between the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine and the Kiev government, which lead to a ceasefire agreement.

Lukashenko remains isolated in the West for his crushing of all political opposition in Belarus.

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