Love of Russian culture brings Russia, the Vatican and Italy closer together, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a gala dinner with delegates of the Russian-Italian Civil Society Dialogue Forum on Thursday evening at the end of his tour to Italy. According to the Russian leader, Pope Francis expressed interest in Tolstoy’s and Dostoyevsky’s literary works during their meeting on Thursday. The transcript of the meeting was posted on the Kremlin’s website on Friday.

“We delved into [cultural ties and Russian literature] in a conversation with the pope. The pontiff allowed me to make it public that one of the books, which is always on his table, is Russian classical literature, including works by Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy,” Putin commented.

“Actually, he [the pope] said something else. I, he said, tell my clergymen that without Dostoyevsky’s books, without realizing the full depth of his philosophy, one cannot be a true priest,” Putin pointed out.

“That speaks volumes, you know. That indicates our mutual, profound spiritual roots. That’s why our humanitarian events are such a success,” he added.

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