Moscow (AsiaNews) - Russian President Putin has appointed Alexander Avdeev, 66, as Russia's new ambassador to the Holy See and to the Order of Malta. Described in Church and political circles in Russia as a devout Orthodox Christian who knows well the Catholic Church, the career diplomat is replacing Nikolai Sadchikov, who is at the end of his term.
Mr Sadchikov was the first ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Vatican after full diplomatic relations were established in 2009. Avdeev's name had already been approved by the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament, and needed only Putin's approval.
Avdeev began his diplomatic career in 1968 as representative of the Soviet Union in Annaba (Algeria). He also worked at the Soviet Embassy in Paris.
Between 1998 and 2002, he served as Russia's deputy Foreign Affairs minister. After that he returned to the French capital as special ambassador and plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation until 2008 when he was recalled to Moscow by then Prime Minister Putin to serve as minister of Culture. In diplomatic circles, he is described as a devout Christian.
During his stay at the Culture Ministry, he called for the revival of traditional Russian moral values. For some foreign observers, in fact it is Avdeev who explicitly favoured the symbiosis between Russian culture and Orthodox Christianity.
"Russian culture will flourish and remain the center of the national idea only if it will be in very close dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church, if it is connected with the understanding that the spiritual and historical value are both sacred values," he told Russky Mir in 2009.
Speaking to the Izvestia newspaper, Hegumen Filaret (Bulekov), deputy president of the Department for External Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow, described the new ambassador as a "competent in state-church relations," an expertise he acquired during his stay in France.
The hegumen hopes that Avdeev will develop "good contacts" with Orthodox parishes in Italy, especially that of Saint Catherine in Rome, which is always in contact with Catholic representatives.
In addition to interfaith dialogue between the two sister Churches, Avdeev will have to deal with issues like peace in the world's hot spots, the protection of minority rights and the worrisome situation of Christians in the Middle East and North Africa.