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Russian Orthodox leader slams Papal trip to Kazakhstan

Patriarch Alexei II has once again expressed his disapproval of Pope John Paul II's recent visit to Kazakhstan.

Catholic World News reports that the Russian Orthodox leader said the Pope should not have travelled to "the canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate".

During a press conference in Rome, the Russian Orthodox leader complained of "Catholic expansionism". He added: "Today, we have no more reason to hope for improvement in our relations with the Vatican."

However a representative of the Moscow Patriarchate arrived in Rome this week, hoping to "get to know the Catholic Church better and pursue the dialogue".

Igor Vyzhanov, who works in foreign affairs for the Russian Orthodox hierarchy, told reporters in Rome that relations between the Vatican and Moscow are at a low ebb. Vyzhanov also said that he could not envision a visit by Pope John Paul to Russia until some key difficulties between the two churches are resolved. He said: "I really do not understand why the Pope's spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, said John Paul would travel to Russia before the end of his pontificate."