Orthodox Snub Kremlin Over Papal Visit Comment

MOSCOW, FEB. 28, 2001 (Zenit.org).- The Russian Orthodox Church brushed off Kremlin efforts to broker an agreement that would pave the way for a visit by John Paul II to Moscow, Agence France-Presse reported.

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The Orthodox Church “respects the government´s position on establishing relations between Russia and the Vatican, but the church´s relations with the Vatican will be conducted directly and without intermediary,” the Interfax news agency quoted a patriarchate spokesman, Vsevolod Chaplin, as saying.

The statement followed a meeting between Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and the Pope in the Vatican on Monday after which, according to Russian media, Kasyanov said the conditions would soon be suitable for a meeting between John Paul II and Russian Orthodox leader Alexis II.

The Pope has on several occasions expressed the wish to travel to Russia, where he was invited by former president Boris Yeltsin.

The Orthodox Church has expressed its opposition to a papal visit because of what it describes as the “persecution” of Orthodox Christians by Greek-Catholics in western Ukraine, and what it sees as Catholic proselytizing in areas the Orthodox Church considers as its heartland.

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