Muscovites Open to Papal Visit

Vatican Says Plans on Hold for Now

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MOSCOW, MAY 27, 2001 ( Although the Vatican is not planning a papal trip to Moscow, 69% of the city´s residents who responded to a newspaper inquiry think the visit could be positive.

The news came as Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, Vatican secretary for relations with states, today presided over the final celebrations for the 10th anniversary of Catholicism´s rebirth in Russia.

The archbishop said that during his visit he has not discussed «either the preparation of a visit of John Paul II to the Russian Federation, or the organization of a meeting of the Pontiff with Alexy II, patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.»

Such plans are on hold, pending the outcome of John Paul II´s June 23-27 trip to Ukraine. Metropolitan Archbishop Vladimir of Kiev opposes the trip, in deference to the Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow.

This past weekend, as part of the 10th anniversary celebrations for the rebirth of the Catholic Church in Russia, a «Biblical-Ecclesiological Symposium» was held in Moscow, attended by 400 Catholic delegates from all over Russia, as well as representatives of other Christian confessions.

A few days ago, Nezavisimaja Gazeta, one of the most respected Moscow newspapers, asked its readers if they were in favor of a papal visit to the capital.

Of the 647 people who responded, 46.8% believe that a papal visit would be «positive and necessary»; 21.3% thought it would be positive only «if the Pope is prepared to make concessions on the problem of Greek-Catholics and others.» Another 31.8% said the visit would be «negative, and under no circumstances should the patriarch meet with the Pope.»

Filipp Taratorkin, «» agency´s Vatican correspondent, said that intellectuals especially have a positive notion of the Pope and Catholicism.

«The Pope of Rome is the incarnation of the West in the highest and, so to speak, most refined sense of the term,» Taratorkin wrote.

The Pope «seems to be an open and sincere man, a priest who is serious about his ministry,» the correspondent added.

The writer continued: The Holy Father´s books, which «are sold in any large bookstore in Moscow,» are «convincing because he speaks to the faithful in simple and accessible language, which, at the same time, reveals the author as an educated and cultured man who knows how to master style.

«Patriarch Alexy II´s refusal to meet with the Pope and the critical statements against him … create the impression in the public that the patriarch wants to avoid the meeting under the pretext of the unresolved problems in relations between Orthodox and Catholic, instead of trying to solve these problems at the highest ecclesiastical level.»

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