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Top Vatican brass in Moscow

MOSCOW (SE): News media in Russia reported early in August that the Vatican secretary of state, Pietro Cardinal Parolin, was set to fly to Moscow on August 20 for a five-day visit. Although the dates of the visit had not been confirmed by the Vatican, it did say that he would make the visit before the end of August.
In the event, Cardinal Parolin arrived in Moscow on August 21 and during his four-day visit met with the Patriarch Kirill and the Metropolitan Hilarion, both from the Russian Orthodox Church.
He also had a meeting with the minister for foreign affairs, Sergey Lavrov, before travelling to Sochi for a face to face with the president, Vladimir Putin.
The most relaxed appointment of his schedule was a gathering with the Catholic bishops of Russia, followed by a Mass at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Moscow and what was described as a convivial dinner. 
A Vatican accredited journalist, Robert Moynihan, described the visit of top Vatican brass to Russia as coming at a crucial time, saying that it is packed with political and religious significance.
The visit of the Vatican diplomat came just a year and a half after the historic February 2016 meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, from the Russian Orthodox Church.
The historic meeting between the two religious leaders, which took place at Havana Airport in Cuba, marked the first time leaders of the respective Churches had talked since the foundation of the Russian Church around 400 years ago.
Moynihan admits that some may fear criticism over the Vatican engaging with Russia at such a high level. However, he noted it is, nevertheless, willing to take this risk.
“On the world scene there is no more important and more significant relationship right now than that between Russia and the west,” the American journalist surmised.
For the Vatican “to bring the highest diplomatic figure to the centre of Russia and to have him speak with the highest authorities is a dramatic and significant gesture on the part of Pope Francis,” he continued.
“The benefit of direct contact and of sitting and talking is so great, and the threat of wider conflict in Ukraine and of deeper division between the west and Russia is viewed in Rome as so dangerous, that the Vatican… is willing to publicly make this trip and underline the fact that they have hope that these types of talks can lessen tensions,” Moynihan commented.
“So this is the delicacy of the moment. I think it is a courageous act on the part of the Vatican,” he concluded.
The main substance of Cardinal Parolin’s discussion with the government was the thorny issue of the Ukraine, where Greek-Catholic Orthodox Christians oppose Greek Catholics.
There were also discussions on the relaunching of humanitarian aid programmes for refugees and victims of the war, as well as for Christians suffering from persecution, which the Catholic Church has been engaged in through a cooperative arrangement with the Orthodox Church.
The other topic to be pursued was the Islamic State and it was tipped that Cardinal Parolin would support an international conference to rediscover the true status of the many territories involved through ending the conflict and the war of sanctions.
Setting this programme in motion is one of the spin offs from the historic meeting between Pope Francis with the Russian Orthodox patriarch in Havana last year, but Cardinal Parolin wants to solidify it.
This was the third visit of a Vatican secretary of state since 1990 when Agostino Cardinal Casaroli travelled to Russia.

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