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New Russian ambassador begins service at Vatican

Pope Francis accepted the letters of credential of Russia’s new ambassador to the Holy See, Ivan D. Soltanovsky, who officially began his mission four months after his predecessor left Rome.

Soltanovsky, 68, presented the letters to the pope Sept. 18 at the Vatican, and also met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state. The Vatican press office published no details of the meetings.

The new ambassador had served as the Russian Federation’s representative to the Council of Europe until the council voted to expel Russia because of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in late February 2022.

The day after Russia launched its attack, Pope Francis made the unusual gesture of leaving the Vatican and going to the Russian Embassy to the Holy See in person to speak to Soltanovsky’s predecessor, Aleksandr Avdeyev.

“I told him, ‘Please, stop this,’” the pope told a reporter months later.

Avdeyev’s posting ended in mid-May.

Soltanovsky formally began his duties just days after Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, said Cardinal Matteo Zuppi of Bologna, Pope Francis’s envoy for peace in Ukraine, was expected to make a second trip to Moscow.

The cardinal was in Beijing Sept. 13-15, in Washington in July and in Kyiv and Moscow in June, meeting with government and Church officials in the hope of encouraging conversations that could lead to a peace process as well as focusing on humanitarian issues in the interim, including guaranteeing safe passage for grain shipments from Ukraine and the return of Ukrainian children taken to Russia.

Soltanovsky graduated from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations and joined the diplomatic service of the Soviet Union in 1977.