MOSCOW, May 25 (RIA Novosti) - Russians living in Italy are able to satisfy 
their spiritual needs, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexis II said as 
meeting Pier Ferdinando Casini, President of the Chamber of Deputies of the 
Italian Parliament, in Moscow on Tuesday.

"The number of our fellow Russians living in Italy is growing and we are 
glad that they have an opportunity to satisfy their spiritual needs. New 
Orthodox parishes are opening in Italy and they feed our compatriots abroad 
spiritually," said the Russian patriarch.

Alexis II emphasised that Orthodox and Catholic parishes, dioceses and 
monasteries had developed friendly relations, and they were stepping up 
their cooperation.

"I remember my visits to Italy. The residents of northern Italy offer a 
particularly warm and hearty welcome to us," noted Patriarch Alexis II.

Alexis II reported on the Russian Orthodox Church representation that had 
opened in the Italian city of Bari.

"I would like to take the opportunity to thank the leaders of the Republic 
of Italy and the city for the representation, which helps Russian believers 
make their pilgrimages," said Alexis II.

The Russian patriarch emphasised that the relics of St Nickolas, one of the 
most revered saints in Russia, are kept in Bari. "A large group of Russian 
pilgrims visited Bari on May 22, the saint's commemoration day," said 
Alexis II.

The Russian church leader said more and more Russians visited Italy with 
every year.

"I believe there is a lot in common between Russia and Italy. Italian 
architects have made their contribution to Russian architecture. Aristotel 
Fiorovanti, for example, contributed to the creation of the Kremlin's 
Assumption Cathedral, Russia's principal cathedral," said Alexis II.

The Italian delegates said St Nickolas' Church in Bari was built in the 
early 20th century, the project that was sponsored among others by the 
Russian imperial family. The church was handed over to the Russian Orthodox 
Church recently.

"However, relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the Russian 
Orthodox Church are, unfortunately, not altogether untroubled," noted 
Alexis II.

Their relations are aggravated by proselytism, in which, above all, 
Catholic monastic orders are engaging in on Russian territory, according to 
the patriarch.

However, Alexis II recalled that he and Cardinal Casper, in charge of the 
Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, had reached an agreement 
to set up a joint working group to deal with problems facing the two 
Churches' relations. The commission held its maiden meeting in early May.

Cardinal Walter Casper, who visited Russia this year, emphasised at the 
meeting with Alexis II that the Vatican continued to regard the Orthodox 
Church as its sister church. Cardinal Casper reiterated at a cathedral 
council that the Catholic Church sought brotherly relations with the 
Orthodox community. He also pointed to the Pro Russia document as meeting 

The cardinal acknowledged that there were clergymen that did not observe 
the document-stipulated rules, but said it was impossible to control all 
the clergy. Catholic propaganda in Russia is not the Vatican's policy or 
strategy. On the contrary such activities run counter to its policy. 
Cardinal Casper also invited to differentiate between Orthodox believers 
who want to adopt Catholicism voluntarily and those who are enticed into 
it. Catholics also happen to switch to Orthodoxy. Cardinal Casper said the 
Catholic Church was not enthusiastic about such cases, but respects freedom 
of worship and freedom of conscience.