Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Russian President Putin Meets With Pope Benedict XVI

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 13, 2007 The first visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Benedict XVI showed signs of warmer ties between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church.

The Vatican press office said that today's meeting, which took place in "a very positive atmosphere," demonstrated the cordial relations that exist between the Holy See and Russia, "as well as the mutual will to continue on this path."

The Holy See continued: "Within this framework, some bilateral topics with shared interest were examined, pertaining to the relations between the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches."

The statement added that current international issues were also analyzed, in particular the situation concerning the Middle East.

The Vatican reported that Putin and Benedict XVI, speaking in German, also addressed "problems of extremism and intolerance ... which constitute a serious menace to the civil coexistence between nations."

The leaders spoke of the need to "maintain peace and to favor a negotiated and peaceful resolution to the conflicts," added the press statement.

Putin gave the Holy Father an icon representing St. Nicholas of Myra.

On Wednesday, in the name of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate, Putin will ask the municipality of Bari, a city traditionally dear to the Russian Orthodox, to hand over possession of the Church of St. Nicholas. The structure was built by the Russian Orthodox early last century.

Additionally, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for relations with states, met with Sergei Lavrov, Russian foreign minister, and other members of the president's delegation.

The Holy See does not maintain full diplomatic relations with the Russia, but does maintain a special mission in the country, supported by an ambassador.

Putin met Pope John Paul II in 2000 and 2003.