The Vatican says Pope Benedict XVI will hold talks next week with visiting Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

The planned meeting on Dec. 3 follows improvements in relations between Russian Orthodox Church and the Vatican.

Medvedev will also hold talks with Premier Silvio Berlusconi during his one-day visit to Rome.

Decades of tensions between Catholic and Orthodox faithful prevented the late John Paul II from making a papal pilgrimage to Russia.

Vatican officials say the improved Orthodox-Catholic relations mean a papal trip to Moscow is now closer, but that no such trip is yet on Benedict's schedule.