Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will pay a brief working visit to the Vatican on December 3 for talks with Pope Benedict XVI, a Kremlin spokesman said on Thursday.
Medvedev said in July that Moscow planned to improve ties with the Vatican, which have been strained in recent years over claims the Roman Catholic Church was trying to convert believers and spread its influence in former Soviet states following the collapse of the U.S.S.R.
The late Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Alexy II refused to meet with then Pope John Paul II, and said outstanding disputes needed to be resolved before any meeting could go ahead with the current Catholic Church leader, Benedict XVI.
When Alexy II died in December at the age of 79, the enthronement of Russia's new church leader, Patriarch Kirill, who was seen as a liberal in the largely traditionalist church, was welcomed by the Vatican.
In March 2007, then Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Pope Benedict XVI during a visit to the Vatican, and pledged to help in reconciling the two divided Churches.
Archbishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk, who heads the Russian Orthodox Church's external church relations department, said in early October that though no arrangements were currently being made for a meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Benedict XVI, the two could theoretically meet "on neutral territory."
MOSCOW, November 26 (RIA Novosti)