Catholic World News

Vatican Secretary of State meets Russian counterpart

August 22, 2017

Conflicts in the Middle East and in Ukraine were high on the agenda for an August 22 meeting between Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.

At a press conference following their meeting, the two emphasized the diplomatic cooperation between Moscow and Rome, and announced the signing of an accord to waive visa requirements for holders of diplomatic passports.

Cardinal Parolin remarked that some sources of tension between the Vatican and Russia remain unresolved, including the provision of residency permits for Church personnel in Russia and the “restitution of several churches necessary for the pastoral care of Catholics in the country.”

However, Cardinal Parolin and the top Russian foreign official found some agreement about the need to pursue avenues to peace in the Middle East. Cardinal Parolin underlined the Vatican’s concern about religious freedom in the region; Lavrov spoke of the need for “proper balance between different ethnic and religious groups in Yemen, Libya, and Iraq.” While the cardinal indicated that they had some remaining differences on the question of religious freedom, the two diplomats agreed that they should cooperate in pursuit of peace and stability in the region.

Cardinal Parolin disclosed that the conversation had also turned to the crisis in Venezuela, and he said that he believed Russia could help push for talks between the government and the opposition. “This is the only solution the Holy See sees for an exit to this situation,” he said.

Questioned about the possibility of a papal visit to Russia, Cardinal Parolin told reporters that he saw “positive momentum” toward that goal. However the Russian Orthodox Church continues to oppose a papal visit. Cardinal Parolin had already said that he does not expect to discuss the matter during his meetings with Orthodox officials in Moscow.

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