Russia and the Vatican have agreed to establish full diplomatic relations. The new status means Russia and the Holy See will have fully-fledged embassies in Moscow and Rome.
The announcement follows a visit to the Vatican by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. The Vatican and the former Soviet Union established ties in 1990, a year before the collapse of the Communist regime. Their ambassadors were at a lower level of “office of representation”.
The new detente follows decades of mistrust between the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches under the officially athiest USSR. Thanks to Patriarch Kiril, the new head of the Russian Orthodox faith, relations have improved. His predecessor was wary of the Catholic Church trying to convert Russians to Catholicsm. The Vatican says it wishes only to cater for Catholic minorities such as Poles, Germans and Lithuanians who have faced persecution in the past.
Vatican observers believe the upgraded ties could pave the way for a visit by Pope Benedict the XVI to Moscow.