POPE JOHN PAUL interrupted a week-long Lenten retreat to meet the Soviet Foreign Minister, Andrei Gromyko, on Wednesday. No details of the private audience in the papal library were released, but the two men are understood to have discussed east-west relations and arms control.
A Vatican spokesman stressed the significance of the Pope's gesture in breaking his retreat, and the importance which the Holy Father attached to eastwest relations. In January, Robert McFarlane, the US National Security Adviser came to the Vatican to report on the Geneva arms control talks.
Vatican Radio said that the two leaders would discuss international peace, disarmament, human rights "and, on the part of the Holy See, above all the problems regarding the life of the Church in the territories of the Soviet Union".
Mr Gromyko. who completed a three-day state visit to Italy on Thursday, was last in the Vatican in January 1979, just months after the Pope's election.
An interpreter was present at the Wednesday meeting, at the Pope's request.