(Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (R) and Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill attend a meeting with Russian Orthodox church bishops in Moscow February 1, 2013. REUTERS/Sergei Gunyeev/Ria Novosti/Pool)

Pope Francis will receive Russian President Vladimir Putin on November 25, an encounter that could help mend strained relations between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church.

Russian-Vatican relations have been fraught since the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union, with Moscow accusing the Roman Catholic Church of trying to poach believers from the Russian Orthodox Church, a charge the Vatican denies.

But Putin is the first Kremlin leader since the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution to publicly profess religious faith – to the Orthodox church – and has several times advocated ending the long feud between the two major Christian churches.

Putin and the pope will hold their first meeting on November 25, a Vatican spokesman said on Thursday.