Cardinal Pietro Parolin greets Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Vatican in 2013. Cardinal Parolin will be visiting Russia later in August. Photo courtesy of

Cardinal Parolin’s Russia visit packed with political, religious significance

By  Elise Harris, CNA/EWTN News
  • August 4, 2017

VATICAN CITY – The Vatican Secretary of State's visit to Russia later this month comes at a crucial juncture for the country, and is packed with both political and religious significance.

He is expected to meet with President Vladimir Putin and leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church during the trip.

On a political level, the visit of Cardinal Pietro Parolin – the dates of which have yet to be announced – comes as Russia faces rising tensions with the West over Syria and Ukraine, and possible meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Just this week the U.S. slapped Russia with more economic sanctions due to Russia's involvement in the election. The decision prompted Putin to expel 755 people from its U.S. embassy and consulates.

On a religious level, Cardinal Parolin's visit also comes at a key time, falling just a year and a half after the historic February 2016, meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The meeting marked the first time leaders from each Church sat down together since the Russian Orthodox Church was founded some 400 years ago.

While there might be fear and criticism regarding their engagement with Russia, “the Vatican is nevertheless willing to take this risk,” seasoned Vatican analyst Robert Moynihan told CNA.

“On the world scene there is no more important and more significant relationship right now than that between Russia and the West,” he said. So 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.”

“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,” he said.

“So this is the delicacy of the moment. I think it's a courageous act on the part of the Vatican.”

Moynihan is an American journalist and is the editor-in-chief of Inside the Vatican magazine. Holding a Ph.D in Medieval Studies from Yale University, he is also founder of the Urbi et Orbi Foundation, which is dedicated to building relations between Catholics and other Christians throughout the world.

Throughout his career he has taken a special interest in Russia, having traveled there some 30 times since 1999.

Moynihan said the significance of Cardinal Parolin's visit and the meetings he will hold have deep historical roots, making the trip a pivotal moment not only for the present, but also in terms of what the future could look like.

(Catholic News Agency)

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