Pope John Paul II is ready to travel to Moscow before the end of the year-- if he receives an invitation from Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexei II.
   Russia's new President Vladimir Putin will visit the Vatican this Monday. He is expected to bring an official invitation from the government of Russia for the Pope to visit that country. Church officials have not excluded the possibility that Putin might also bring a similar message from the Orthodox Patriarch.
   Whether or not it comes from Putin, insiders at the Vatican are anticipating that an invitation from the Russian Orthodox Church could soon be forthcoming. And it is clear that in the absence of such an invitation from the Orthodox, Pope John Paul would not accept an invitation from the Russian government.
   The Holy Father clearly wants to visit Moscow as soon as possible. He regularly reads a Russian-language Bible-- a gift from former Russian President Boris Yeltsin-- in order to maintain his familiarity with the language. He has also frequently voiced his hope that the Eastern and Western Christian churches can draw together at the dawn of the 3rd millennium.
31 May 00


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