Pope Francis went to the Russian embassy in Rome on Friday to personally express his concern about the war in Ukraine, in an extraordinary papal gesture that has no recent precedent.
Popes usually receive ambassadors and heads of state in the Vatican. For Francis to travel a short distance to the Russian embassy outside the Vatican walls was a sign of his strength of feeling about Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.
Vatican officials said they knew of no such previous papal initiative.
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni confirmed the pontiff wanted "clearly to express his concern about the war." Pope Francis was there for just over a half-hour, Bruni said.
Francis has called for dialogue to end the conflict and has urged the faithful to set next Wednesday as a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Ukraine.
But he has refrained from publicly calling out Russia, presumably for fear of antagonizing the Russian Orthodox Church, with which he is trying to build stronger ties.