#4 - JRL 7188
MOSCOW PATRIARCHY DOES NOT WANT JOHN PAUL II TO COME TO RUSSIA
MOSCOW, May 19th, 2003 /from RIA Novosti correspondent Olga Lipich/ -- The fact that Vatican returns to Russia the copy of the Kazan Icon of Holy Lady dating back to the 18th century, "is not a reason for John Paul II to come to Russia," reads the release of the Moscow Patriarchy's foreign church relations department.
It was released in response to the recent statement of the Vatican press service's director Joaquin Navarro-Valls that the Pope could come to Russia to return the copy of the icon.
The icon is "one of the many that were used in liturgies and were illegally smuggled from the country during the years of trouble," the patriarchy pointed out. "Earlier such icons were returned to our country from abroad, but this usually took place with the participation of customs and other law-enforcement bodies of different countries, as well as of patrons of art who bought out the stolen icons".
The department's release underlines that "the attempts to connect the return of the icon with the issue of the Pope's visit to Russia arouse astonishment, ever more so as Vatican has not started negotiations on such a visit with the Russian Orthodox Church".
The possibility of a meeting between Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexei II with the Pope "fully depends on Vatican's readiness to take steps towards real settlement of problems between the two Churches," the document reads.
The problems include catholic proselytism among people who belong to Orthodox Church by baptism and cultural tradition, and the discrimination of the canonical Orthodox Church believers in Western Ukraine.
"However, the recent establishment of new catholic episcopates in Kazakhstan testifies that Vatican's course aims at further aggravating the current difficulties," the release emphasised.