Pope Benedict XVI met with president Dmitry Medvedev at the Vatican on Feb. 17 in their first meeting since the Holy See and Russia determined to upgrade their diplomatic relationship in 2009.
Medvedev was accompanied by his wife and several assistants, as well as his minister for foreign affairs, Sergey Lavrov. The Russian president is also in Italy for two days to meet with government leaders and induct a year of cultural exchange between the two nations.
“This is a very important meeting,” the Pope told the Medvedev as they exchanged greetings briefly before concluding the doors for their private audience in the papal library.
After an strangely long encounter of more than a half-hour, the doors were opened again to reporters who witnessed the exchange of gifts.
The Pope received a two-volume set of letters from the former Russian president to foreign heads of state and Pope John Paul II from 1996-99. He also was given “Orthodox encyclopedia” and a painting of the Moscow with a sight of the Russian government headquarters of the Kremlin.