Russian Patriarch Sets a Criterion for Papal Trip

ATHENS, Greece, JAN. 11, 2005 ( John Paul II’s long-desired trip to Russia could only occur if the Vatican renounces efforts to “proselytize” in traditional Orthodox areas, says the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The condition set by Patriarch Alexy II — contained in a reply to questions from the Associated Press — suggests Russian Orthodox leaders have not been swayed by recent Vatican overtures that have included the return of an important icon.

Before a papal visit to Russia can be considered, “it is essential to renounce the proselytism which is being carried out … by numerous representatives of the Catholic clergy,” Alexy wrote.