Moscow Visit Is Still Questionable

Alexy II´s Guarded Reaction to Athens Trip

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MOSCOW, MAY 6, 2001 ( Whether the papal trip to Orthodox Greece will pave the way for a visit to Orthodox Moscow is unclear.

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II was circumspect when commenting on the Pope´s request for forgiveness for the historical sins and offenses of Catholics against Orthodox.

«It is necessary to see how this declaration of the Pope will work out in practice,» Alexy said.

He was referring to the conflict between Orthodox and Eastern-rite Catholics in Ukraine, who are disputing over the buildings Stalin confiscated from the Greek-Catholic Church.

No sooner had the Pope concluded his pilgrimage to Greece on Saturday, than Orthodox Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens flew to the Russian capital to meet with Patriarch Alexy II.

The Greek primate took a medal on behalf of the Pope, a gift to the Russian Orthodox leader.

For his part, Archbishop Christodoulos has been very upbeat about the impact of the papal trip to Greece. He emphasized upon arrival in Moscow that the Pope´s petition for forgiveness from God extends not only to the Greeks, but to all the Orthodox, including the Russians.

«The Pope came on pilgrimage, and we were not against it,» Archbishop Christodoulos said.

In a long statement published by the Moscow Patriarchate on Christodoulos´ visit, there was no explicit mention of the joint examination of the Pope´s visit to Athens. The two Orthodox leaders´ statements, however, demonstrate that the topic was addressed, as was the forthcoming papal trip to Ukraine in June.

Much harsher in tone is the latest issue of Pravoslavie («Orthodoxy»), a review published by the Sretenskij monastery of Moscow «with the blessing of His Holiness Alexy II.»

On the eve of the Pope´s arrival in Athens, Pravoslavie only published statements of Greek leaders and groups opposed to the papal visit.

A survey done last Friday found 99% of the Greeks favorable to the visit.

Regarding the Pope´s upcoming trip to Ukraine, the review published an article entitled «The Pope´s Visit Coincides with the 60th Anniversary of Hitler´s Invasion.»

A visit «on the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church not only is a hostile action, but also a provocative and perfidious act of aggression,» Pravoslavie stated.

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