.- Cardinal Renato Martino is scheduled to meet Tuesday with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. The prefect of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace left for Russia Saturday.
The meeting with Patriarch Alexy II and Metropolitan Kyrill, who heads the Russian church's foreign relations department, is another attempt by the Vatican to improve relations with Russian Orthodox Christians, reports the Associated Press.
Pope Benedict XVI has pledged to make reconciliation with the Orthodox Church a "fundamental" commitment of papacy.
Pope John Paul II had tried to visit Russia, but the Russian Orthodox Church would not welcome him. The Orthodox Church has accused the Catholic Church of proselytizing after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Vatican has always rejected these claims, saying it is only ministering to Russia's 600,000-member Catholic community.
Under Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990, the Soviet Union had established official ties with the Vatican, but they fell short of full diplomatic relations. Currently, Russia has a mission with an ambassador in Rome and the Vatican has a papal nuncio in Moscow.