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Russian Orthodox leader calls Pope

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church has condemned a live link-up between Pope John-Paul II and Roman Catholics in Russia.

He said the television link amounted to a "virtual visit" by the Roman Catholic leader, with whom the Russian church has strained relations.

The Vatican has defended the broadcast, during which the Pope leads prayers for young Catholics in Russia as well as congregations in Athens, Athens, Budapest, Strasbourg and Valencia.

But Patriarch Aleksiy of the Russian Orthodox Church said it was an "invasion of Russia" and referred to the Polish occupation of Moscow in the early 17th century. John-Paul is of Polish origin.

Hundreds of Catholics were at Moscow's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception as the "television bridge" began on Saturday evening. Many were in tears as the pope appeared on the screen.

His church has long opposed a visit by the Pope to Russia, where there an estimated 600,000 Catholics among the population of some 148 million.

Pontifical Council for Social Communications


4 - Mar - 2002