01 March 2007, 11:26
The Holy See prepares to meet Russian president
Vatican City, March 1, Interfax - The Vatican expects Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet Pope Benedict XVI in the middle of May, the vice director of the Holy See press office Fr. Ciro Benedettini said.
The meeting will take place within the framework the Russia’s chief executive’s state visit to Italy.
It will be Mr. Putin’s first visit to the Vatican after Benedict XVI’s election as primate of the Roman Catholic Church. Prior to that, the president met the current pope’s predecessor, Pope John Paul II, twice, in June 2000 and November 2003.
The issue of possible summit between the pope and the primate of the Russian Orthodox Church was not discussed during those meetings.
Pope John Paul II was invited to Russia by the Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and the first Russian President Boris Yeltsin. However no visit would take place due to problems in relationships between the Roman Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church.
Meanwhile the Moscow Patriarchate has never rejected the idea of a papal visit to Russia or a meeting between the pope and Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia in a third country. Still Alexy II has always stressed that such a historic occurrence should signify essential changes in relationships between the two churches, solve the current disputes, and not become a show event.
The main remaining problems in Orthodox-Catholic relations include Catholic missionary activity in Russia and other CIS countries and the conflict between Orthodox and Greek Catholics in Ukraine.
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