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Pope, Russian Foreign Minister avoid discussing papal visit
    Despite increasingly warm relations, the Vatican and Russia avoided the sensitive issue of a papal visit to Moscow during meetings on Monday.
    "We didn't discuss this question today," Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told reporters.
    Ivanov capped off his three-day visit to Italy with a papal audience.
    A visit to Moscow is one of the unfulfilled goals of John Paul's 22-year papacy but tensions between Catholics and the Russian Orthodox that have heightened since the fall of communism have blocked such a visit.
    It appeared neither Ivanov nor the pope wanted to chill what the Vatican called a 'particularly warm' meeting by raising the question of a visit to Moscow.
    Instead, they focused on what the Vatican statement called a 'convergence' of views on many international issues, particularly the Middle East.
    Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II has been the chief stumbling block to a papal visit. Long-standing theological divisions have been worsened by Catholic missionary activity since the fall of communism in traditionally Orthodox Russia.
    For the Vatican, an invitation issued by then-President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1989 still stands.
   
AP
   
17-Jan-01

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