VATICAN CITY, JULY 27, 2010 (Zenit.org) - Archbishop Antonio Mennini, until now the Pope's representative to the Russian Federation, is now the Holy See's first apostolic nuncio to the country, the Vatican is reporting. [HUZZAH!!!]
The archbishop presented his letters of credence to Foreign Affairs Minister Sergej Lavrov on July 15 in a ceremony that was followed by a "cordial" meeting, reported the Vatican press office.
Last December, Benedict XVI and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed to upgrade relations between the two sides to full diplomatic ties, which raises the level of representation to apostolic nuncio and embassy.
The two sides have maintained representation below the rank of ambassador since 1990.
In an address to the new nuncio, Alexander Krusko, the vice-minister of Foreign Affairs, reviewed the development of bilateral relations between the Russian Federation and the Holy See. He noted that the relations between the two were "characterized by a growing understanding and spirit of collaboration," reported L'Osservatore Romano.
Krusko also assured Archbishop Mennini, on behalf of the Russian president, of "a fruitful collaboration in the great moral and ethical challenges posed to man today." [Diplomatic language if taken soooo seriously has a very deep an serious meaning especially in a very highly secularized Europe.]
For his part, the archbishop transmitted the Pope's greeting to the Russian president, assuring his "collaboration for a further reinforcement of relations with the government, as well as for the spiritual and moral growth of the Russian people."
This ceremony brought to an end the exchange of embassies, which began on June 26 in Rome with the presentation of the letters of credence of the first Russian ambassador to the Holy See, Mikolaj Sadlichov.
Take note that this is a huge step!
The Russian Orthodox Church under its former Patriarch Alexy is soooo paranoid of the Roman Catholic Church that even a meeting between the Pope and him is soooo hard to organize. They charge that Rome is proselytizing on traditionally Orthodox land, while they go and build Orthodox churches in traditionally Latin Church grounds. Remember in 2009, they built a Church in....Rome itself. Did they hear the Pope throw a nutty? Nope.
But things have changed since the election of Kirill to the Patriarchate. Alexy is seen as very hardline and seemingly highly suspicious of the Latin Church. But under Kirill, things have changed. The once archbishop was the leading ecumenism champion who dialogued with Rome's Cardinal Kasper to improve relations between Rome and Moscow.
In February 11, 2002, Moscow was raised to the dignity of a Metropolitan Archdiocese with Saratov, Irkutsk and Novosibirsk as suffragans. The current archbishop is Paolo Pezzi, FSCB. (pictured at left)
So things are improving. Praying for the best.