08/29/2004, 00.00
RUSSIA - VATICAN
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Aleksij II: "Orthodox and Catholics together against secularisation"

Orthodox Patriarch thanks Pope for the gift of the icon of Kazan.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – In his meeting with the Vatican delegation yesterday during the handover ceremony of the Icon of Kazan the Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow Aleksij II said that "Orthodox and Catholics can and must cooperate" to deal with the problems that beset Russian society.

In delivering the papal gift to the Russian Church, the Vatican delegation brought a message in which the Pope calls the icon of Kazan "a symbol of the unity of the followers of Christ".

Aleksij II received privately Card. Walter Kasper, head of the Vatican delegation, Card. Edgar T. McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, and the papal nuncio Antonio Mennini. He told the Vatican envoys that he would shortly respond to the Pope's message.

The Patriarch also told his guests that in Russia Orthodox and Catholic Christians "should cooperate fruitfully [. . .] to resist the secularisation of society and stand against totalitarian sects which try to catch people in their networks thus damaging their soul."

The meeting took place after the handover ceremony inside the Kremlin's Cathedral of the Dormition. Mgr. Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, Catholic Metropolitan of Moscow, attended the ceremony as well. But whilst Lutherans from Norway led by the Bishop of Oslo were allowed to assist at the solemn ceremony, Moscow Catholics were not.

During the ceremony the Patriarch thanked the Pope for returning the icon and expressed his hope that the transfer will be "the first step towards restoring brotherly relations between the Orthodox Church and the Vatican."

Alexksij II told the media that "the icon taught many Catholics to love Russia, the Russian Orthodox Church, and its cultural heritage."

"We hope," he added, "the matter will not be limited merely to the transfer of the icon but that this act will be followed by others so that our relations will improve in the future."

Asked about a possible papal visit in Russia, the Patriarch said: "Negotiations on a possible visit of the Pope to Russia will be possible only after essential shifts in our relations. At the moment," Aleksij II added, "the visit is impossible." (AF)

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