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Vatican Foreign Minister In Moscow

Archbiship Lajolo (L) with Foreign Minister Lavrov in Moscow today (AFP) 28 October 2005 -- The Vatican's foreign minister is in Moscow today for talks with Russian government officials and leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church aimed at expanding ties between the Holy See and Moscow.

Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo was to meet Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and later Metropolitan Kirill, who heads the Russian Orthodox Church's foreign relations department.

In interviews to Russian media ahead of his visit, Lajolo said that the "difficult relations" between the two churches were not irreconcilable and said he prayed that the time becomes ripe for a visit to Russia by Pope Benedict XVI.

Russian Patriarch Aleksii II, the head of the Russian church, has until now opposed a papal visit accusing the Catholic Church of poaching for converts in Russia and other former Soviet republics. The Catholic Church rejects the accusations.