Holy See and Russia Seeking to Enrich Relations

Foreign Minister Visits Vatican

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 15, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See and the government of the Russian Federation analyzed the way in which they can enrich their relations, during Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s visit to the Vatican.

Lavrov was received today by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano, according to a statement by Father Ciro Benedettini, assistant director of the Vatican press office.

«In the course of the meeting,» the Vatican spokesman said, «there was an exchange of views on bilateral relations between the Holy See and Russia and on the international situation, with special interest in dialogue among cultures and collaboration within international organizations.»

Father Benedettini said the «serious problem of peace in the Holy Land and Iraq» was also discussed.

Also present in the discussions was Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, Vatican secretary for relations with states, and Vitaly Litvin, Russian ambassador to the Holy See.

«The meeting demonstrated the cordial relations that exist between the two parties and the possibility of further developments,» the Vatican spokesman’s statement concluded.

Last Saturday, the Holy See announced that on Aug. 28 John Paul II will return the icon of the Virgin of Kazan to the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church. The icon is one of the religious images most venerated by the Russian Orthodox.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is among the promoters of this gesture in view of an eventual reconciliation between the two Churches, which have been separated for 950 years. When the Pope received Putin last November, he assured the latter that he would return the icon «as soon as possible.»

John Paul II is now vacationing in Valle d’Aosta, in the Italian Alps.

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