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Possible breakthrough in relations with Russian Orthodox Church

Zenit News Agency reports that the Moscow Patriarch wants to renew links with Rome from indications given in his Christmas message to Pope John Paul. The Times of London in a separate report says "Russia's most senior Roman Catholic priest has hailed a Christmas greeting to the Pope from Patriarch Alexiy II as a breakthrough in relations between the two Churches."

In a message for Christmas, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexiy II suggested to John Paul II that they renew "fraternal contacts," Interfax reported.

"Illuminated by the luminous rays of the light of Christ, let us take up our fraternal contacts and direct our joyful praise to the newborn Divine Child, who came on earth for our salvation," the Orthodox leader of Moscow says in his message.

Many journalists saw the gesture as an attempt by the Orthodox to re-establish Vatican relations that were broken in recent months.

On several occasions, the patriarchate expressed its opposition to John Paul II's decision last February to establish four Catholic dioceses in Russian territory.

In the wake of the February decision, authorities expelled Catholic Bishop Jerzy Mazur and four Catholic priests from the country.

In his message to the Pope, Alexiy II promised to pray for him this Christmas, which the Russian Orthodox Church will celebrate Jan. 7.


31 Dec 2002