The Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, has arrived in Moscow for an official visit slated to include a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
After his arrival on August 21, Parolin met with Metropolitan Hilarion, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church's department for external relations, TASS reported.
Parolin said earlier this month that he hoped his four-day trip could help lay the groundwork for an eventual visit by Pope Francis to Russia, which no head of the Catholic Church has visited in the modern era.
"The preparation of a possible visit to Russia by Francis is not part of the aims of my visit," Parolin told Italy's Corriere della Sera in an interview published on August 10.
"With God's help however, I hope it can make some contribution in this direction," he added.
Francis has sought to bridge enduring tensions between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic branches of Christianity, including with a landmark February 2016 meeting in Cuba with Patriarch Kirill, the head of Russian Orthodox Church.
Parolin told Russia's state-run TASS news agency in an interview published on August 20 that he will meet Kirill again in Moscow.
He is set to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on August 22 and Putin the following day, TASS quoted Parolin as saying.
Based on reporting by AFP, TASS, Corriere della Sera, and Vatican Radio