21:44 GMT26 May 2020
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    Mikhail Gorbachev first met Pope John Paul II during his visit to the Vatican in December 1989, a year later he was received by the Pontiff as president of the-then USSR.

    In an article published by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano on Sunday, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev focused on the role of spiritual leaders during the coronavirus pandemic, paying tribute to Pope John Paul II. The late Pontiff's 100th birthday is set to be marked across the world on 18 May.

    In the piece titled "He remains our contemporary", the first and only president of the Soviet Union specifically recalled his meeting with the Pope at the Vatican in December 1989, calling John Paul II "an exceptional" person.

    "John Paul II managed to combine the high mission of a spiritual leader with a subtle compression of social and political processes around the world", Gorbachev wrote.

    He praised the Pope for a "particularly profound understanding of European history and the role of Europe in today's world".

    "I am sure that John Paul II would have supported the call to demilitarise international relations and the political mentality, as well as to reduce military spending", Gorbachev continued.

    Referring to the coronavirus pandemic, the former Soviet leader stressed that the world is currently going through tough times and is asking "particular questions" pertaining to "everyone of us, but above all to politicians".

    "Nowadays, the role of spiritual leaders has become even more important and full of responsibility. I'd like to hope that they will manage to cope with this by following and taking inspiration from the example of Pope John Paul II. He continues to remain our contemporary even today", Gorbachev concluded.

    Gorbachev's remarks come after he called on world leaders in mid-April to convene a special session of the UN General Assembly once the coronavirus crisis is over and cut military spending by 10 to 15 percent.

    "l'll never tire of repeating: we need to demilitarise world affairs, international politics, and political thinking. […] This is the least they should do now, as the first step toward a new consciousness, a new civilisation", Gorbachev said in an op-ed for Time magazine.

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    COVID-19, coronavirus, anniversary, article, role, Mikhail Gorbachev, Pope John Paul II
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