Russian Orthodox Signals Willingness to Meet Pope

MOSCOW, APRIL 18, 2002 ( The head of the Russian Orthodox Church said he would meet with John Paul II but only if they were certain of mending deep differences between the faiths, the Associated Press reported.

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Patriarch Alexy II has said that Catholic “proselytizing” and disputes over church property in the Western Ukraine are the main obstacles to improving relations with the Vatican.

“I have said more than once that I am prepared to meet with the Pope, but it would have to be a meeting that really allows us to solve the problems,” Alexy was quoted as saying in the Gazeta newspaper on Wednesday.

Alexy has rejected the Holy Father´s desire to visit Russia to advance his campaign for reconciliation between the two branches of Christianity.

The patriarch said this month the Vatican´s recent creation of four formal dioceses in Russia had put any reconciliation talks between the two Churches on hold. The Orthodox hierarchy views the new dioceses as an attempt to make further inroads among Orthodox believers.

About two-thirds of Russia´s 144 million inhabitants are loyal to the Orthodox Church. There are about 600,000 Catholics.

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