09/01/2004, 00.00
RUSSIA - VATICAN
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Orthodox Church hopes in more meetings in Moscow and Rome after icon's return

Moscow (AsiaNews) - "The return of the icon of Kazan is a happy event for us Orthodox," said Bishop Mark, Deputy President of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate. "We hope that other such events can take place in Moscow and Rome to underscore the positive nature of our relations and dispel any negative conjectures made in the press," he added. Bishop Mark also said that a passage in the Patriarch's letter to the Pope states that good relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church should lead both to "preach Christian values in a secular society".

Another Orthodox leader, Fr John Lapidus, stressed the special significance of the Patriarch's letter to the Pope for future Orthodox-Catholic relations. He said that for the first time the Patriarch was confident in the Vatican's good will. "I believe," Father Lapidus said, "that the decision by the Catholic Church to hand over the icon is proof of its sincere wish to overcome difficulties that exist between our two Churches, who are called upon to overcome the negative consequences of the 20th century."

Against the wishes of the government of Tatarstan, Aleksij II, Patriarch of Moscow, decided last Saturday to keep the icon of Kazan in his private chapel. The Patriarch said that conditions in Kazan are such that the icon cannot yet be kept there in a dignified fashion.

In Soviet times Bogoroditsky monastery, which previously housed the image, was used as a tobacco–processing plant. The monastery's church, which held the icon, now houses the National University of Education.

Whilst Kazan's mayor has promised to return the buildings to the monastery, Patriarch Aleksij II said that until such time that the monastery and the church are not renovated the icon will remain in his private chapel. (AF)

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