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Moscow Patriarch says Pope needs a better excuse for visit

The Patriarchate of Moscow has said that the return of the icon of Our Lady of Kazan is not a reason for a visit by John Paul II.

This week's rebuff was an expression of the Patriarch's disapproval of the Catholic Church's upgrading its presence in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan with the creation of two new dioceses.

A statement published on Monday by the communications service of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, said: "The attempts to link the returning of this icon with the question of a visit of the Pope of Rome to Russia are astonishing, the more so that the Vatican has not negotiated such a visit with the Russian Orthodox Church."

Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls confirmed earlier this month in Madrid, that the Vatican was studying the possibility of a papal stopover in Kazan, in the Russian Federation, during John Paul II's trip to Mongolia at the end of August.

On that occasion, the Pope would like to return to Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow the icon given to him for this purpose by a Catholic institution.

In a further twist to the saga, the Patriarch stated that "on the basis of the analysis undertaken on 1 April, 2003, in Rome by a group of authoritative scientists delegated by the Russian Federation Ministry of Culture and the Vatican, it has become known that the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan kept in the apartments of the Pope of Rome is an 18th century copy made by a provincial icon-painter on the pattern characteristic of the late 17th-early 18th century."


New Kazakhstan Dioceses provoke sharp Russian reaction (20/5/03)
Russian minister claims icon in Vatican is copy (29/4/03)
Pope confirms intention to return Icon of Our Lady of Kazan to Russia (2/4/03)
Icon could hold key to Church dialogue (Catholic Weekly)

22 May 2003