Putin values "the constructive dialogue between the Holy See and Russia"

Russian President Putin meets with Cardinal Pietro Parolin

Putin values "the constructive dialogue between the Holy See and Russia"

By Christopher Lamb/ lastampa.it

President Vladimir Putin has told the Vatican’s top diplomat he values the “trusting and constructive” dialogue that exists between Russia and the Holy See during the pair’s meeting on Wednesday, August 23. The Russian leader welcomed Cardinal Pietro Parolin to his presidential residence in Sochi, a city on the shores of the Black Sea, at the end of a four-day landmark visit to Russia by the cardinal.

“We value the trusting and constructive dialogue that has developed between the Holy See and Russia,” President Putin told the Holy See’s Secretary of State. “We are working consistently to implement the agreements reached during my contacts with His Holiness Pope Francis.”

Cardinal Parolin, the highest ranking Vatican figure to visit Russia in almost 20 years, responded saying he passed on the “warmest wishes” from the Pope to the president recalling the papal audiences granted to Putin in both 2013 and 2015.

“This visit and meeting are taking place at an important time with regard to our bilateral interstate relations, and also with regard to the relations between the Holy See and the Russian Orthodox Church,” he explained. “With regard to the bilateral ties between the Holy See and the Russian Federation, we are very happy with these relations’ development, with the initiatives and contacts pursued and the various meetings that take place.”

The cardinal’s trip demonstrates Pope Francis’ desire to build relations with Russia, a country playing an increasingly important role on the world stage. In a statement the Kremlin said that the president and Cardinal Parolin discussed the plight of Christians in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as the situation in Syria and Ukraine.

At a joint press conference yesterday the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the cardinal said Russia could help solve the political and economic crisis in Venezuela. The cardinal - a former papal ambassador to Venezuela - stressed that Russia is in a strong position to mediate a political settlement due to their traditional ties with the country, run on socialist-communist grounds. He also said there was now some “positive momentum” behind the possibility of a visit by Pope Francis to Russia.

Alongside diplomacy, Cardinal Parolin’s visit had a strong ecumenical dimension and included a meeting with the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill. In February 2016 Pope Francis had his own meting with the Patriarch in Cuba, marking the first encounter between a Pope and Russian Patriarch since the great schism between eastern and western Christianity 1,000 years ago.

President Putin said today he was “very pleased” the dialogue between the two churches was ongoing. “There is no doubt that the common humanitarian values that the Holy See and the Russian Orthodox Church defend form the foundation for relations between the two churches and between Russia as a state and the Vatican,” the president said.

Cardinal Parolin pointed out that the diplomatic relationship between the two countries operated on various levels and referred to the recent loaning of relics of St Nicholas to Russia from Bari, in southern Italy. President Putin also thanked the cardinal for the Vatican Museums lending some of their art works for an exhibition at the Tretyakov Gallery, in Moscow, and that they are preparing a reciprocal event in 2018.

The cardinal is the first Secretary of State to visit Russia since Cardinal Angelo Sodano in 1999 who consecrated Moscow’s Catholic Cathedral. Relations between the Kremlin and the Vatican have not always been easy. Pope St John Paul II was viewed with suspicion by the Russians due to his role in the collapse of the Soviet Union while the Russian Orthodox Church accused the Polish Pope of proselytising after he set up Catholic Church structures on Russian territory.

Tensions today are focussed on Ukraine, which was partly annexed by Russia in 2014. The cardinal said yesterday this was a “thorny” because the Russian Orthodox Church sees the existence of the Ukrainian Catholic Church as a “problem”. The orthodox have accused Catholics of proselytism in Ukraine while resenting papal influence in the western part of the country, which it views as its own territory.

Thu, 08/24/2017 - 00:41
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