POSTED: 10:30 a.m. EDT, March 13, 2007
Pope Benedict XVI hosts Putin on Tuesday.
VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin and Pope Benedict XVI are set to meet Tuesday in the highest-level Kremlin-Vatican talks in more than three years, a meeting expected to focus on ways of easing tensions between Catholics and Orthodox Christians and finding common ground on moral issues.
The meeting -- the first between Benedict and Putin -- is part of a visit that takes the Russian leader to Italy and Greece this week.
Tensions with the Russian Orthodox Church have stood in the way of a papal visit to Russia.
The Russian church accuses Roman Catholics of improperly seeking converts in areas that traditionally would be Russian Orthodox. The Vatican has rejected the proselytizing accusations, saying it is only ministering to Russia's tiny Catholic community of about 600,000 people in a country of 144 million.
Long-running property disputes between the churches have also put both sides at odds.
The late John Paul II's dream of going to Moscow was thwarted by lack of agreement with the Orthodox Church leadership.