Alexy II Would Consider Meeting Pope in Neutral Country

Orthodox Moscow Patriarchate Suggests Slovenia

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MOSCOW, SEPT. 15, 2002 ( Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow could meet with John Paul II in a «neutral» country if disagreements between the two Churches are surmounted, the patriarchate said.

Russia Orthodox Father Vsevolod Tchaplin on Saturday said that before such a meeting could take place, it would be necessary «to resolve all the problems that are still pending, especially Catholic proselytism in Russia.»

In a July statement, the Department of Foreign Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate denied in practice the Catholic Church’s right to preach the Gospel in territories under the authority of the patriarchate.

Previously, the Vatican, through Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, explained that the «policy of the Holy See with the Russian Orthodox Church is clear: We want dialogue, we want cooperation, we reject proselytism, we want ecumenism, we want to foster the pastoral care of our Catholics.»

Father Tchaplin said he thinks Slovenia could be a possible site for a meeting between John Paul II and Alexy II.

«The patriarch of Moscow has had warm relations with Archbishop Franc Rode of Ljubljana, the head of the Slovene Catholic Church,» the Orthodox priest said over radio station Echo Moscow.

«Only the resolution of all disagreements would make possible a meeting between the heads of the two Churches,» Father Tchaplin added.

Relations between the Catholic Church and the Moscow Patriarchate have been particularly tense since February, when John Paul II established four new dioceses in Russia.

Since then, a Catholic bishop and four priests have been expelled from Russia, prompting Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls to note «talk of authentic persecution.»

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