08/24/2017, 09.25
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The 'constructive dialogue' between Putin and Cardinal Parolin in Sochi

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The Russian President met the Vatican Secretary of State in his dacha. Collaboration on international issues, especially Syria, Ukraine, North Africa and Venezuela, underlined. The Russian cultural heritage exhibition in Moscow and in the Vatican. The pilgrimage of St. Nicholas's relics is appreciated. Parolin: Vatican diplomacy moves on many levels. There is some doubt about the pre-electoral use of the visit.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - At the conclusion of his official visit to the Russian Federation, the Vatican Secretary of State, Card. Pietro Parolin, met yesterday the Russian President in his dacha, the summer residence of Sochi on the Black Sea. In the presence of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, whom he met the previous day in a busy working session, the cardinal was welcomed by the President, whom he had already met in the Vatican on his previous visits to Rome in 2013 and 2015.

The Russian head of state has in fact encountered not only Pope Francis, but also his predecessors in the Vatican: in 2007 he was welcomed by Benedict XVI, and twice was received by John Paul II, shortly after his election in 2000 and then again in 2003. He had never received a high-level delegation from Rome as in this case, limiting himself to receiving  the Apostolic Nuncius so far, which underscores the importance of Parolin's mission after 18 years of the Putin regime.

The president wanted to welcome the cardinal in the heat of Sochi without the Kremlin protocol, after a summer spent fishing along with his defense minister, Sergey Shojgu, captured in bare chested photographs in various virile poses, posted on social media throughout the summer. In a long pre-election phase in which he appears to be chiefly concerned with rebooting his image and recovering popularity especially among young people, Putin has gathered the fruits of the cardinal’s positive visit, in which the Vatican has shown its full will to help Russia recover the confidence of its Western and global interlocutors, after the frosty climate of a new "cold war" in last few years.

In this sense, the city of Sochi appeared the ideal scenario: overlooking the sea of ​​great Russian conflicts, two steps from Ukraine and the reconquered Crimea, the Russian president wanted to look like a Byzantine Emperor who grants an audience to the Pope of Rome, who meekly seeks his benevolence. Sochi is also the city of the 2014 Winter Olympics, where Putin reached the pinnacle of his magnificence: rebuilt for the occasion by investing over fifty billion dollars, the city was to celebrate the return of Russia to the splendor of its state of superpower . In his munificence, on that occasion Putin also granted a pardon to the impertinent Pussy Riot and dissident Milhail Khodorkovskij, but celebrations were ruined since the Majdan uprising in those days.

Even this time, with Parolin, the celebration was somewhat ruined by the arrest of the most popular Russian theater and television director Kirill Serebrennikov, on August 22, provoking uproar throughout Russia. Accused of malpractice in the use of government funds, the filmmaker is under house arrest. In any case, this affair was not particularly noticeable in the international media, which had sent many correspondents to follow Parolin's visit.

Putin was happy to congratulate the head of Vatican diplomacy, assuring all his esteem for "the relationship of trust with the Vatican, and the continuation of a constructive dialogue, which allows us to reach agreements such as those achieved in previous contacts with Pope Francis" and also his satisfaction for " the continuation of inter-personal dialogue" between Catholics and Russian Orthodox.

He also warmly thanked his interlocutor for the "great event" of the translation of  the relics of St. Nicholas of Bari to Moscow and St. Petersburg, as had Patriarch Kirill, Minister Lavrov and Metropolitan Hilarion. Like Lavrov, the President especially thanked the Vatican for the help in organizing the exhibition on Russian cultural heritage, held at the Tretjakov Gallery in Moscow and the Vatican Museums, to which the Russians attach a high symbolic value. At Sochi they also exchanged views on international issues, according to the Kremlin's official note, ranging from the crisis in the Middle East and northern Africa, and in particular the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Ukraine. Particular attention was paid to the situation in Venezuela, a very popular country with Pope Francis and well known by Cardinal Parolin, where Russians can play an important role in national pacification because of its great ties with one of the South American countries linked to the Soviet past.

In conclusion, the Vatican Secretary of State remarked that "there are many levels in our diplomacy. There is a whole range of political issues, but also many cultural initiatives. Even in relations between Churches, I certainly see a new dynamism, which has begun to develop in recent years. " Parolin expressed the hope that all participants in the meetings will continue to support the jointly agreed directions, "for our collaboration to be ever wider and cordial."

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