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Russian Ambassador says Pope should visit Moscow

The Russian ambassador to the Holy See has reportedly endorsed the idea of a visit to Moscow by Pope John Paul II - a visit that is one of the Holy Father's most cherished ambitions.

Vitaly Litvine believes that a papal visit is "necessary" in order to resolve tensions between Rome and Moscow, according to Italian news sources quoted in a Russian journal, Wremia Novostiei.

To date, the Pope's desire to visit Moscow has been frustrated because of the adamant opposition of the Russian Orthodox hierarchy. Vatican officials have indicated that it is highly unlikely the Pope would visit against the wishes of the Moscow Patriarchate.

The Vatican has also been at odds with the Russian government because of the expulsion of Catholic clerics, including one bishop. But the ambassador's remarks were viewed as an indication of a possible warming in relations with the government.

However, there is no sign of a thaw in the attitudes of the Russian Orthodox leadership. Interviewed by the Polish publication Rzeczpospolita, Bishop Vsevold Chaplin of the Moscow Patriarchate said that there was "no change" in the situation.

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The Catholic Church in Russia

19 Feb 2003