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Delicate balance for Pope Francis as he meets Putin

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis is welcoming Russian President Vladamir Putin to the Vatican just two days after world leaders shunned him from the G7 summit over Russia's actions in Ukraine.

CBS News' Jonathan Vigliotti reports that at a time when much of the world has slammed the door on Russia over its role in the ongoing crisis in eastern Ukraine, many hope Pope Francis can build diplomacy through religion.

Julie and Joseph Wendel, visiting the Vatican Wednesday from Indianapolis, were cautiously optimistic.

"While we're in a place of turmoil and conflict, I believe that the Vatican wants peace," Julie told CBS News. Joseph added that it was a "very fine line to walk, to still be accepting, but not approving of a regime."

The pope's meeting at the Vatican is a delicate balance indeed. In the past, he has partnered with Russia to protect Christians in the Middle East.

Now, however, the Ukrainian Catholic Church is asking Francis to protect its followers from Russia.

Sergeant Alexander Alexandrov says that he wa... 03:00

The U.S. is urging Pope Francis to join the West in condemning Russia's actions in Ukraine. The pope has called for an end to the violence in Ukraine, but has not publicly taken sides in the standoff.

The pontiff's measured approach has proven effective in the past; he's credited with breaking tensions between Cuba and the U.S. Cuban president Raul Castro was so impressed with Pope Francis, he said he was considering becoming religious again.

Putin has not been as warm. He has never invited Pope Francis to visit Russia, even though Putin has now been welcomed to the Vatican twice.

Francis and Putin first met at the Vatican in 2013 -- five months before Russia took over the Ukrainian territory of Crimea.

After his meeting with the pope, Putin was slated to spend some time catching up Wednesday with his old friend, former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi.

Filed by CBS News' Jonathan Vigliotti.

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