Pope Benedict Appoints New Head Of Russian Roman Catholics

Moscow, Russia - Pope Benedict XVI appointed Friday a new head of the Russian Roman Catholics, the Holy See said on its Web site.

Paolo Pezzi, 45, who has lived and worked in Russia for 10 years, heads a Roman Catholic seminary in St. Petersburg. He will replace Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, who has been appointed as the Vatican's representative in Belarus, where he was born and earlier served as apostolic administrator.

Experts say the new appointment can be considered as a calculated diplomatic step significant for the complicated relations between the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. Some scholars believe the Moscow Patriarchate had a slightly negative attitude towards Kondrusiewicz.

Pezzi, 47, was born in Russi, Italy. He studied philosophy and theology in 1985-1990 at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. He subsequently became rector of the St. Petersburg seminary. As well as his native Italian, he speaks Russian, English, Spanish and French.

The Moscow Patriarchate, which governs the Russian Orthodox Church, said Friday it hopes that Orthodox-Catholic dialogue will develop further under the new head of Russian Roman Catholics.