"Forces" Oppose Papal Visit, Says Tatarstan Leader

MOSCOW, JUNE 18, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The president of the Russian Republic of Tatarstan says “some forces … do not want the Pope to visit Russia and, in particular, Kazan,” to return an icon of the Blessed Virgin.

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Mintimer Shaimiyev made that statement Monday, according the ANSA agency.

Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls had announced that John Paul II might make a stopover in the city of Kazan, capital of Tatarstan, to return the ancient icon which is in the Vatican, and which belonged originally to the Russian Orthodox Church.

The Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow said that the return of the image is not a sufficient reason for a visit by the Holy Father, and that it is necessary first to surmount the problems that exist between the two Christian Churches, separated by a millennium-old schism.

There has been a rebirth of the Catholic community in Kazan, with the arrival of a group of young Argentine missionaries, members of the Institute of the Word Incarnate, who serve the Catholic parish of the city.

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