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ROME, July 22 (Itar-Tass) — Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, who’s paying a working visit to Russia, will hold preliminary meetings in Moscow on Sunday, the press service of the government’s Chigi palace reports. The Italian premier will have an audience with Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill and a dinner with leading Italian businessmen who work in Russia.
Local observers say that Mario Monti, a practicing Catholic, pays great attention to religion in his policy, including relations with the clergy. Monti has already had several personal meetings with Pope Benedict XVI. Sunday’s meeting with Patriarch Kirill will be the premier’s first contact with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. Such practices are rare in the protocol of inter-state visits. Sources at the Holy See press service recall that President of the Italian Republic Giorgio Napolitano visited the then Patriarch Alexiy in his residence in St. Daniel Monastery in 2008. Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill received Andrea Riccardi, the founder of the influential Roman Catholic Community of Saint Egidio who is now minister of international cooperation, in Moscow on June 14, 2012.
Commentators believe that today’s meeting will manifest the Italian government’s readiness to promote ecumenical dialogue between the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church for the sake of preserving the Christian roots of the European civilization.
The Italian Council of Minister’s press service clarifies that Mario Monti will first meet Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow on Monday, July 23, and will hold talks with President Vladimir Putin in Sochi later in the day.