MOSCOW, July 8 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian Orthodox Church is waiting for the Vatican to give a "signal" that it is ready to take relations to a new level and move away from past disagreements, a spokesman told journalists Wednesday.
Commenting on whether the status of the Vatican's representation in Moscow would be raised to that of an embassy, Archbishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk said it is "an interstate problem rather than an interchurch one, as the talk is about the state of the Vatican City, which is responsible for establishing diplomatic relations with different nations."
He said that on the subject of interchurch relations, "no factors as yet have emerged that could be described as the opening a new page in these relations."
However, in a recent interview on Italian state TV ahead of Wednesday's G8 summit, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Moscow planned to improve ties with the Vatican, which have been strained in recent years over claims the Catholic Church was trying to convert believers and spread its influence in former Soviet states following the collapse of the U.S.S.R.
The late Patriarch Alexy II refused to meet with then Pope John Paul II, and said outstanding disputes needed to be resolved before any meeting could go ahead with the current Catholic Church leader, Pope Benedict XVI.
When Alexy II died in December at the age of 79, the enthronement of Russia's new church leader Patriarch Kirill, who was seen as a liberal in the largely traditionalist church, was welcomed by the Vatican.
As head of the Russian Orthodox Church's external relations for more than a decade, Kirill had led dialogue with the Vatican and other churches.