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Russian Ambassador to the Holy See: Gorbachev was impressed by John Paul II

Twenty five years ago the world was much different. The Berlin Wall still divided Europe and the fate of Communism was still uncertain. On December 1st, 1989, former Communist President Mikhail Gorbachev traveled to the Vatican to meet with John Paul II.  A Polish Pope, who had directly experienced the effects of communism.  ALEXANDER AVDEED Russian Ambassador to the Holy See "President Gorbachev was delighted after meeting John Paul II. In fact, he spoke very highly of him. He was impressed by the knowledge the Pope had, by his spirit of virtue. Also for sending his encouragement to the people of the Soviet Union.â?  A few months after their meeting the Soviet Union and the Holy See re-engaged in diplomatic relations. The Berlin Wall was about to crumble and the USSR was willing to open its doors.  ALEXANDER AVDEED Russian Ambassador to the Holy See "For us, this visit meant engaging in good relationship with the Vatican, the most important  spiritual and religious center in the world. From the start, our diplomatic ties and the dialogue between both of these leaders, gave us hope. It seemed like we could solve the problems of the world with negotiations and the spirit of John Paul II.â? In 2009, Russia decided to improve its diplomatic ties with the Holy See, by having a permanent representative. Alexander Avdeed, who served as Russia's Minister of Culture, became the first Russian ambassador to the Holy See.  Another key anniversary came when Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Pope Francis for the very first time.  ALEXANDER AVDEED Russian Ambassador to the Holy See "I talked to the President after their meeting and he said he was satisfied. He was very impressed by the wisdom, knowledge and clarity of the Pope and by his role in the international scene. I think this visit strengthened the political and cultural ties between Russia and the Vatican.â? Much has changed in the last century. Now, the Ambassador says the country is more than ready to host a Papal trip. ALEXANDER AVDEED Russian Ambassador to the Holy See "Why not?â? Despite the good relations embraced by the Vatican and the Russian Government, the Russian Orthodox Church still remains somewhat distant from the Holy See. The Pope has never met with the Patriarch of Moscow. Roughly 146 million people live in Russia. Only one percent is Catholic. AC/PM/KLH  MG JM -PR Up: MPI