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Putin unable to deliver Pope's invite to Russia

Pope John Paul II met with Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday afternoon, and told him that he was "praying for Russia".

But while the Pope made a series of gestures aimed at improving relations with the Russian Orthodox Church, he did not get an invitation to visit Russia.

During an earlier meeting with the Pope some years ago, Putin invited John Paul II to visit his country, but added: "As for a comprehensive visit, I can't do it without the Russian Orthodox Church's consent."

Putin has said on many occasions that he wants to help end the dispute between the Vatican and the Orthodox Church, but that Russia would defend its faith and identity.

Tensions between the Russian Orthodox, the dominant Christian faith in Russia, and the Catholic Church have deep historical roots, but have worsened since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.

In a gesture of reconciliation, John Paul had an icon brought into the meeting that is much revered by Russian believers - the icon of the Mother of God of Kazan, which usually hangs in his private chapel. The Pope blessed the icon, and then Putin kissed it.

Pope meets President Putin (Independent Catholic News)

Putin meets Pope at Vatican (BBC)
EU Officials, Religious Leaders Meet (Beliefnet/Associated Press)
Pope meets Putin but does not get long-sought invitation to Russia (Associated Press/CBC News)
Pope, Putin speak on Catholic-Orthodox tensions, world trouble spots (Catholic World News)
Putin visits Pope to boost Orthodox-Catholic ties (Gateway to Russia)
Russian President Putin Meets the Pope (Associated Press/The Guardian)
Famed icon at center of photo as Pope and Putin meet (Catholic World News/Spirit Daily)
Putin kills off Pope's Moscow wish (The Australian)
The dark side of Putin's Russia (The Tablet)
Analysis: Putin among friends in Rome (United Press International)

7 Nov 2003