Despite Putin's welcome, Russian Orthodoxy's leader again opposed a papal visit

Posted: Friday, January 25, 2002

MOSCOW (AP) -- The head of the Russian Orthodox Church has repeated his fierce opposition to a visit to Russia by Pope John Paul, citing Roman Catholic activity in the region. He said he wouldn't meet the pope if he decides to come.

Patriarch Alexy II said ''the Vatican continues to proselytize on the territories of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, trying to convert people christened as Orthodox or rooted in Orthodoxy,'' ITAR-Tass reported last week.

Just before, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would invite John Paul ''any minute'' as head of state but the pope himself wants better relations with Russian Orthodoxy before a visit occurs.

''Regrettably, that doesn't depend on me,'' Putin said.

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