02/15/2011, 00.00
RUSSIA
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Medvedev to visit Pope for first time since diplomatic relations established

by Nina Achmatova
Benedict XVI and the Russian president will meet on February 17. Talks held as leaders of two states, but in the framework of more "brotherly" relations with the Moscow Patriarchate.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Although it will be a meeting between representatives of two states, few believe that the Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and the Pope, on 17 February in the Vatican, will not speak of the relationship with the Moscow Patriarchate. Certainly the visit of the head of the Kremlin to the Holy See, the first since diplomatic relations were restored, is greatly helped by the improved relationship between the two sister Churches.

"I can not say with certainty what issues will be touched during the visit, but I can say that this visit will be primarily a symbol of good, friendly relations and cooperation that exists between the two states and that in all probability is likely to grow", said the first secretary of the Nunciature in Russia, Visvaldas Kulbokas. Moscow and the Holy See established diplomatic relations in 2009. The decision certainly helped improve relations between the Vatican and the Moscow Patriarchate after the pontificate of Polish Pope John Paul II and the patriarchate of Kirill. Medvedev's visit will take place on the second and final day of his official trip to Rome to inaugurate the year of Russian culture in Italy and vice versa. Many argue that the president, with a devout Orthodox Christian wife, seeks to present himself as the one who finally paved the way for relations between the Vatican and Orthodox in Russia, becoming the architect of religious dialogue, on which he is focusing a lot lately.

The meeting will focus on Russia and the Holy See’s shared values on the protection of human life and moral values in the international arena, said Msgr. Kulbokas. Who added that even if it is a meeting between representatives of two states, the talks "will take into account the friendly and fraternal relations between the two Churches." The Patriarchate of Moscow was less diplomatic, yesterday saying it was convinced that the head of the Kremlin’s visit to Benedict XVI will also promote dialogue between the two Churches.

After the departure of the Nuncio Antonio Mennini for a new job as Vatican diplomatic representative to Great Britain, Russia looks forward to the appointment of the new Nuncio. "It could happen in the coming days or weeks," according to Kulbokas.

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