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Putin to visit Vatican seeking rapprochement with Orthodox church

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  • Reader Timothy Tadros
    2003.11.04 AFP: Putin to visit Vatican seeking rapprochement with Orthodox church 04
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 10, 2003
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      2003.11.04 AFP:
      <http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/afp_world/view/55492/1/.html>
      Putin to visit Vatican seeking rapprochement with Orthodox church
      04 November 2003 1428 hrs (SST)

      MOSCOW : Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he would meet Pope
      John
      Paul II in the Vatican in a bid to heal a breach between two ailing
      spiritual leaders: the Roman Catholic pontiff and the patriarch of the
      Russian Orthodox Church, Alexy II.

      "We have to contribute to the unification of Christianity despite the
      nuances which separate the various churches and confessions," Putin
      told
      Italian reporters ahead of Wednesday's visit.

      "In this context we very much hope to contribute to bringing together
      the
      positions of the Russian Orthodox church and the Holy See in Rome,"
      Russian
      news agencies on Tuesday quoted him as saying.

      The meeting with the Pope -- Putin's second following an earlier
      visit in
      June 2000 -- holds out little prospect of opening the way for the
      Pope, now
      83 and in failing health, to fulfil a long-cherished dream of visiting
      Russia.

      He stressed that his mission was not to secure a visit by the pope to
      Russia which "is not possible given the state of understanding
      between the
      two churches".

      The key to such a visit lies in the hands of the Moscow patriarchate
      since
      Putin, though he has never explicitly ruled out issuing an invitation
      to
      the head of the Catholic Church, has made it clear he will not
      override the
      patriarchate's effective veto.

      Alexy II, who suffers from heart problems, has set conditions for a
      papal
      visit that the Vatican is unable or unwilling to meet.

      The most significant reproach concerns the more than 2,000 parishes
      recovered -- in some cases by violent means, according to Moscow --
      by the
      Uniate Catholics of Western Ukraine to the detriment of the Orthodox
      Church
      in the early 1990s, as the Soviet Union was collapsing.

      The parishes and their churches were confiscated from the Uniates
      (Catholics who observe Eastern rites) by Stalin in 1946, and the
      Moscow
      patriarchate is insisting either that the churches be used jointly or
      that
      the two communities jointly finance the construction of new churches.

      The suggestion has drawn a tepid response from Ukrainian Catholics
      where
      nationalist sentiment, particularly with regard to Russia, runs deep.

      In Russia itself, the patriarch has made an issue of the perceived
      "proselytism" and "missionary" activities of Catholic priests, urging
      the
      Vatican to ban them.

      The dispute has revealed a chasm of mutual miscomprehension. The
      dynamism
      of some Catholic priests is seen by the patriarchate as "unfair
      competition".

      The Vatican's creation early last year of four new Catholic dioceses
      in
      Russia exacerbated the rift, Rome having failed to consult Moscow
      beforehand.

      The past year has seen no improvement in relations.

      The patriarch rebuffed a proposal that the pope could stop off at
      Kazan,
      the capital of the Tatarstan republic, on a mooted trip to Mongolia,
      to
      hand over a famous Orthodox icon that had found its way to Rome.

      Further, he sent an expert to Rome who examined the icon and
      pronounced it
      to be a copy.

      Observers expect Putin's visit to the Vatican to be purely a matter of
      protocol with only Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who
      requested
      it, drawing any satisfaction.

      Putin was to travel to Italy on Tuesday for a summit with the European
      Union.
      - AFP

      PUTIN TO FOCUS ON CHRISTIAN UNITY DURING VATICAN VISIT

      Says Reconciliation Needed Before Pope Could Go to Russia

      VATICAN CITY, NOV. 4, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Russian President Vladimir
      Putin
      said he aims to promote Christian unity when he visits John Paul II on
      Wednesday.

      "I believe that my objective is to foster the unification of
      Christianity
      taking the opportune steps and not so much to enable the Pope to come
      to
      Russia," said the leader of the Russian Federation, in an interview
      published today by the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera.

      "Christianity is at the base of European culture and European
      identity,"
      Putin affirmed as he prepared for his second visit to the Vatican.

      On the other visit, on June 5, 2002, contrary to what Mikhail
      Gorbachev and
      Boris Yeltsin did when they went to the Vatican, Putin did not invite
      the
      Pope to visit his country.

      "The divisions that exist between Catholics and the Orthodox Church
      also
      exist, for example, between Catholics and Anglicans," Putin said. "All
      these differences must be reconciled."

      "This is particularly opportune for Russia, as it also represents a
      step
      toward integration in the European area," he said. "But of course we
      must
      be integrated without losing our culture and identity. Therefore, we
      must
      proceed with much caution on this path."

      Putin added: "The Pope is an intelligent and wise person and I think
      he
      will understand this."

      Putin gave an interview to U.S. journalists, published Sept. 29 in the
      Washington Post, in which he explained that "he must respect the
      position
      of the Orthodox Church," which opposes the papal visit.

      Relations between Russia and the Holy See deteriorated after Russian
      authorities expelled a bishop and at least five priests from the
      country
      without explanations, following the Pope's establishment of four
      dioceses
      in Russia in February 2002.

      The Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches have been divided since
      the
      schism of 1054.


      VATICAN PRESS STATEMENT ON PUTIN'S VISIT

      VATICAN CITY, NOV. 6, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Here is the press statement
      published Wednesday by JoaquƄn Navarro-Valls, director of the Vatican
      press
      office, at the end of the audience that John Paul II granted to
      Russian
      President Vladimir Putin.

      * * *
      "This afternoon the Holy Father received Vladimir V. Putin, President
      of
      the Russian Federation. The meeting, which was very cordial, lasted 30
      minutes. The Holy Father asked that the icon of Our Lady of Kazan be
      kept
      in the room and he showed it to President Putin."

      Navarro-Valls then quoted Putin in reference to his last visit with
      the
      Pope: "Although three years have gone by, it seems like yesterday."

      "During the conversation, topics of mutual interest were reviewed,
      specifically Catholics in Russia and their ecclesiastical structures.
      Both
      parties expressed hope for a positive development in the dialogue
      between
      the Holy See and the Patriarchate of Moscow.

      "On international issues there was an exchange of opinions on the
      conflict
      in the Holy Land and on the Iraqi question.

      "At the same time, Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano met with
      Igor
      Ivanov, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and other Ministers in the
      entourage.
      During their conversation, they exchanged opinions on the situation of
      ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox. They then
      examined the
      new initiatives for peace in the Holy Land and in Iraq." [Translation
      by
      the Vatican Information Service]
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