The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Alexis II, warned Tuesday that certain obstacles would have to be overcome before any possible meeting with Pope John Paul II, Interfax said.
"We do not rule out the possibility of a meeting but believe it should be well prepared and the obstacles removed," the patriarch told Italian President Carlo Ciampi during talks here.
The two main obstacles preventing a papal visit to Moscow are Catholic proselytism in Russia and the persecution of Orthodox Christians in Ukraine, according to Alexis II.
The patriarch categorically disagreed with the view that Russia is "a field for the Catholic Church's missionary activities," Interfax said.
Alexis II first raised the possibility of a papal visit to Russia in June, but Russian President Vladimir Putin failed to invite the 80-year-old pontiff to Moscow during a meeting with John Paul II in Rome shortly afterwards.
The Russian press speculated that Putin had given in to pressure from the Russian Orthodox Church after moving closer to the religious body since assuming the presidency.
The Russian patriarch said Ciampi, who arrived in Russia Monday on a three-day official visit, had "listened with understanding" to his viewpoint, Interfax said.
The Italian president voiced the hope Tuesday that both sides would smooth the path to facilitate a meeting between the rival churches' leaders -- MOSCOW (AFP)
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