The Secretary for the relations with States of the Holy See, Msgr. Giovanni Lajolo, is on a official visit to Moscow since yesterday, he will stay there until Sunday. A visit that intends to give witness to the sympathy of the prelate and the Holy See for the Russian people, under strain through the harrowing tragedies of Beslan and more recently of the bombing in Nalcik.
He is to meet Friday with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and hold a separate session with Metropolitan Kirill, who heads the Russian Orthodox Church's foreign relations department.
The Vatican released transcripts of interviews Lajolo gave to two Russian news outlets; he arrived in Moscow on Wednesday and called for upgrading diplomatic relations with the Kremlin.
In these interviews, he prelate expounded on the current difficulties in the relations between the Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox , and about a hypothetical visit of Benedict XVI to the Russian Federation. He saw it as a significant ecumenical event that would require a thorough preparation.
But according to the Prelate, the Pope "will never undertake a visit to Russia, that, rather than contributing to a better understanding and concord, could be a motive of tension and discontent."
In the field of the relations of the Holy See and the Russian Government, Msgr. Lajolo, continued: "It seems evident to me that the current status of the reciprocal representations in Moscow and the Vatican doesn't correspond to the weight which the Holy See attributes to its relations with the Moscow government, nor in the position which the Holy See -- with its 174 apostolic nunziatures and another 20 representatives to international organizations -- has in the world," Lajolo was quoted as saying. "Rather, I think both the parties should work to progress onto full diplomatic relations."
The Holy See and the Soviet Union established official ties in 1990, but they fell short of full diplomatic relations. The Vatican says it and Russia have "relations of a special nature" in which the Kremlin maintains a mission with an ambassador in Rome and the Vatican a papal nuncio in Moscow.
In a separate interview with the Blagovest-Info news agency, Lajolo said the problems with the Russian Orthodox Church could be surpassed and said the Catholic Church in Russia was ready to look into the misunderstandings.
Pope John Paul II had long sought to visit Russia, and Pope Benedict XVI has continued his outreach to the Orthodox, saying that unifying all Christians was a "fundamental" priority of his pontificate.