Because of its special relations with Russia, the Vatican appoints a representative in Moscow rather than a nuncio.

Over the past few months, Archbishop Zur, 72, protested officially on several occasions to the federal authorities over the expulsion of a Catholic bishop and some priests. Russian authorities have given no explanation for their action.

Since his appointment in 2000 as the Holy See's representative, Archbishop Zur worked to foster good relations with the Moscow Orthodox Patriarchate.

From 1998 to 2000, the German prelate was president of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, the Vatican's diplomatic school.

Archbishop Zur will be substituting Archbishop Donato Squicciarini, who turned 75 last April. The name of a substitute for the Moscow post is yet to be published.