Putin attempting to arrange papal visit to Russia
Russian government is working to organise a historic visit by Pope John Paul II "in the near future", Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said yesterday.
No pope has ever visited Russia, but John Paul repeatedly has said he wants to as part of efforts to promote greater Christian unity. However, the Russian Orthodox Church has opposed such a visit, accusing the Vatican of seeking to win converts.
Kasyanov, speaking to reporters on a trip to the Volga River city of Rybinsk, said the government hopes the pope will visit Russia "in the near future".
"Yes, indeed, we are trying to help arrange it," Kasyanov said in remarks broadcast by Russia's NTV television.
But Kasyanov said the decision of a papal visit should be made by the churches.
"The agreement must be reached by church leaders," he said. "That's not a decision to be made by the government."
Orthodox Church spokesman Fr Vsevolod Chaplin said he hoped the Vatican would not plan a Russia visit without his church's consent, the Interfax news agency reported.
Reports have surfaced recently that the Vatican wants to arrange a stopover in Russia when John Paul goes to Mongolia in August to inaugurate a Roman Catholic cathedral in the mainly Buddhist country.
Russian Prime Minister Wants Pope to Visit (Zenit)
Italian Premier Promoting Vatican-Moscow Summit (Catholic World News)
Russia: Papal visit possible (AP)
Russian church hopes Pope's visit will not be planned without Patriarchate's consent (Interfax)
Pope set to visit Russia (The Universe)
Pope could meet with Russian Patriarch to return icon (15/3/03)
23 Apr 2003