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Russia, Vatican To Upgrade Relations

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev during his visit to Italy on December 3
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has told Pope Benedict he has decided to upgrade diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Moscow to the highest level.

"President Medvedev told Pope Benedict at today's meeting that he signed a decree concerning the establishment of full diplomatic relations with the Vatican," Medvedev's spokeswoman Natalya Timakova, told reporters.

The Vatican and the former Soviet Union established ties in 1990 -- a year before the collapse of the Communist state -- at the level of an office of representation, even though their representatives have always had the rank of ambassador.

The new status means that Russia and the Holy See will have full-fledged embassies in Moscow and Rome.