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Putin visiting Pope to boost Orthodox-Catholic ties

Russian President Vladimir Putin visits Pope John Paul today to gently nudge the Orthodox and Catholic churches towards improving ties soured by a decade of post-Communist suspicions.

But his efforts may prove too late for Pope John Paul, a key figure in the downfall of communism in eastern Europe, whose failing health could prevent him from fulfilling his dream of visiting Moscow unless a possibility comes soon.

Attempts to promote dialogue between the Vatican and a reinvigorated Russian Orthodox Church have made little progress.

Orthodox Patriarch Alexiy II has made a visit by the Holy Father contingent on resolving complaints that Catholics are both poaching congregations and provoking disputes over property in western Ukraine - home to six million eastern-rite Catholics. Catholic leaders deny proselytising and say new dioceses and the naming of new bishops are strictly to serve the faithful.

Putin, who is in Rome for a Russia-European Union summit, said his second visit to the Vatican is aimed at overcoming divisions within Christianity.

"I therefore see my objective not in helping to get the pope to Russia but in helping steps towards unity. And naturally this is possible only if there is an understanding between churches," he told Italian journalists before leaving.

Putin visits Pope to boost Orthodox-Catholic ties (Gateway to Russia)

Putin Visits Pope to Boost Orthodox - Catholic Ties (Reuters/New York Times)
Pope longs for visit to Russia he will likely never see (Knight Ridder)
Russian Orthodox leader cheers pope despite rift (Gateway to Russia 15/10/03)
New Kazakhstan Dioceses provoke sharp Russian reaction (20/5/03)
Negotiations Underway for Pope to Return Icon of Kazan to Russia (Zenit 18/5/03)

Gorbachev pays tribute to Pope John XXIII (The Tablet)

5 Nov 2003