Tension with the Russian Orthodox Church has 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 accusations, saying it is only ministering to Russia's tiny Catholic community of about 600,000 people in a country of 144 million.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Pope Benedict XVI met Tuesday for the highest level Kremlin-Vatican talks in more than three years, focusing on easing tension between Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians and finding common ground in denouncing intolerance and extremism.
A Vatican statement issued after the meeting - which included 25 minutes of private talks - made no mention of an invitation by Putin for the pope to visit Russia. Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said a visit had not come up.
Still, the talks appeared to have met Vatican expectations, with the statement saying they were held in a "very positive climate."
Benedict wished Putin "a warm welcome to the Vatican" in the pope's native German, the language of their talks.
The meeting - the first between Benedict and Putin - is part of a visit that takes the Russian leader to Italy and Greece this week.