Pope Francis has been able to work with this career diplomat, and has praised him a number of times.
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Pope Francis received Alexander Avdeyev, Russian ambassador to the Holy See since 2013, on a leave of absence visit on May 11, 2023, the Holy See Press Office announced. The highly experienced diplomat has played an important role in the Vatican since the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.
On February 25, 2022, just over 24 hours after the beginning of the Russian offensive in Ukraine, Pope Francis paid him an unexpected visit. Instead of the ambassador traveling to the Vatican, as is customary, the Pope went to his embassy on Via della Conciliazione. Ignoring protocol — normally it is the ambassadors who are summoned to the Apostolic Palace by the Pope — the Pontiff came in person to ask for an end to the war.
Since then, the Russian ambassador has been discreet. However, he is highly regarded by the Pope, who has publicly praised the diplomat on several occasions, describing him as “a humanist, a man who fights for equality.” The Pontiff also confided that he had asked him to obtain exchanges of Ukrainian and Russian prisoners.
Avdeyev has had a long diplomatic career, first within the Soviet Union, working in Algeria and Paris before being the last Soviet ambassador to Luxembourg from 1987 to 1990. For Russia, he was then ambassador to Bulgaria between 1992 and 1996 and then to France between 2002 and 2008.
He interrupted his diplomatic career for four years when the then Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, entrusted him with the Ministry of Culture between 2008 and 2012. In 2013, Vladimir Putin, re-elected president of the Russian Federation, appointed him ambassador to the Holy See in a context of warming relations between the two states. It was during his mission in Rome that the historic meeting between Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church and Pope Francis was organized, during a trip to Cuba in 2016.