Pope Francis broke with convention on Friday to visit a Russian embassy and voice his concerns over the invasion of Ukraine.

A Vatican spokesman, Matteo Bruni, confirmed the 85-year-old pope's visit to the Embassy in the Holy See in Rome, Italy, and said he spent just over 30 minutes in a meeting where he called for a dialogue to end the war.

"The Holy See press office confirms that the pope went to the Russian Embassy to the Holy See on Via della Conciliazione, clearly to express his concern about the war," Bruni said, according to CBS affiliate 10 WBNS.


Bruni declined to comment on the conversation between the pope and Russian Ambassador Aleksandr Avdeyev.

Avdeyev said the pope "called for the protection of children, the protection of the sick and suffering, and the protection of people," Reuters reported Russian news agency RIA Novosti as saying.

The pope's unprecedented visit broke protocol dictating that ambassadors and heads of state are brought to the pope, rather than the Catholic leader leaving the Vatican premises himself.

The Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who is the second-highest person in the church, said Thursday that although the invasion has begun, there is still time to limit the damage and end the aggression.

"The tragic scenarios that everyone feared are unfortunately becoming reality," Parolin said. "But there is still time for goodwill, there is still space for negotiation, there is still room to exercise a wisdom that prevents partisan interests from prevailing, that protects everyone's legitimate aspirations and spares the world from the folly and horrors of war. We believers do not lose hope for a glimmer of conscience in those who hold the destinies of the world in their hands."

While Pope Francis has refrained from publicly denouncing the attack, he has encouraged Catholics to set aside time on Ash Wednesday next week to pray for peace in Ukraine. He was expected to preside over a meeting on Sunday of Mediterranean bishops and a special service for Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting and prayer in the Christian community, but the Vatican canceled his appearances due to an acute flare-up in his knee.


The pope is expected to visit Malta in early April, according to the Vatican.

Hundreds of troops on both the Ukrainian and Russian sides have been wounded or killed since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine early Thursday morning local time.