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Putin shows off religious side - kisses icon on Vatican visit

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Pope Francis meets Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a private audience at the Vatican today. REUTERS/Claudio Peri/Pool

Pope Francis meets Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a private audience at the Vatican today. REUTERS/Claudio Peri/Pool

Pope Francis meets Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a private audience at the Vatican. REUTERS/Claudio Peri/Pool

Pope Francis meets Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a private audience at the Vatican. REUTERS/Claudio Peri/Pool

Pope Francis meets Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a private audience at the Vatican.

Pope Francis meets Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a private audience at the Vatican.

Pope Francis meets Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a private audience at the Vatican. REUTERS/Claudio Peri/Pool  (VATICAN - Tags: RELIGION POLITICS)

Pope Francis meets Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a private audience at the Vatican. REUTERS/Claudio Peri/Pool (VATICAN - Tags: RELIGION POLITICS)

Pope Francis (R) shakes hands with Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a private audience at the Vatican. REUTERS/Claudio Peri/Pool

Pope Francis (R) shakes hands with Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a private audience at the Vatican. REUTERS/Claudio Peri/Pool

Pope Francis exchanges gifts with Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a private audience at the Vatican. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano

Pope Francis exchanges gifts with Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a private audience at the Vatican. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano

Pope Francis meets Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a private audience at the Vatican. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano

Pope Francis meets Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a private audience at the Vatican. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano

Pope Francis meets Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a private audience at the Vatican, November 25, 2013. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano

Pope Francis meets Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a private audience at the Vatican, November 25, 2013. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano

Pope Francis exchanges gifts with Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a private audience at the Vatican, November 25, 2013. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano

Pope Francis exchanges gifts with Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a private audience at the Vatican, November 25, 2013. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano

Pope Francis shakes hands with Russia's President Vladimir Putin. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano

Pope Francis shakes hands with Russia's President Vladimir Putin. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano

Pope Francis meets with Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a private audience at the Vatican. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano

Pope Francis meets with Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a private audience at the Vatican. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano

Pope Francis (R) exchanges gifts with Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a private audience at the Vatican today. REUTERS/Claudio Peri/Pool

Pope Francis (R) exchanges gifts with Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a private audience at the Vatican today. REUTERS/Claudio Peri/Pool

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Pope Francis meets Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a private audience at the Vatican today. REUTERS/Claudio Peri/Pool

Russian president Vladimir Putin has shown off his religious side during a visit to the Vatican, stopping to cross himself and kiss an icon of the Madonna that he gave to Pope Francis.

Mr Putin and Francis met privately for 35 minutes this evening in the pope's private library.

The Vatican did not immediately give details about the conversation.

Francis gave Mr Putin a ceramic mosaic of the Vatican gardens, and Mr Putin presented Francis with an image of the icon of the Madonna of Vladimir, an important religious icon for the Russian Orthodox faithful.

After they exchanged the gifts, Mr Putin asked Francis if he liked it, and Francis said he did. Mr Putin then crossed himself and kissed the image, and Francis followed suit.

The Argentinian pope is particularly devoted to Marian icons.

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