The meeting between Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexis II with the Vatican's new envoy Antonio Mennini on Thursday "does not mean any breakthrough in the relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Vatican," according to the Moscow Patriarchate Department of External Church Relations.
The Apostolic Nuncio presented his credentials to the Moscow Patriarch (previously, the credentials were presented to Russian President Vladimir Putin). Officials in the External Church Relations Department stressed that the nuncio's functions are "exclusively diplomatic." They said the meeting "was held within the diplomatic protocol framework." RIA Novosti's interlocutors were perplexed why some media "are making a deal of the new nuncio's arrival in Russia." According to them, the parties discussed the current state and further prospects of relations between the Russian Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches and pointed out that it was "necessary to resolve the problems hampering progress in the inter-church dialogue." The relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Vatican have always been rather tense. They were aggravated in February, 2002, when Pope John Paul II decided to upgrade the Catholic administrative structures in Russia to dioceses. Since that time, Russia became a "church province" headed by a metropolitan.
The Russian Orthodox Church sharply objected to this decision saying it was "unfriendly and undermining the prospects of improving relations between the two churches."