Alexis II hails Pope John Paul II

Aug. 31, 2004 at 4:32 PM

MOSCOW, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- The leader of the world's eastern Orthodox Christians in Moscow has told his Catholic counterpart he would welcome closer ties between their two communions.

Alexis II, patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, communicated his message via a papal delegation that returned a treasured Russian icon the Vatican had long held, Novosti reported Tuesday.

"The return of the sacred icon, brought by your nuncios, is perceived by the Russian Orthodox Church as an act of redressing the injustice and, at the same time, as an act of good will on the part of your holiness," his message to Pope John Paul II said. "I believe that your decision to return of the icon is a testimony to the sincere desire to overcome the difficulties between our churches."

The message was disclosed Tuesday by Russian Orthodox officials.

Preaching Christ to secularized society will only be successful when all Christians follow the Savior's commandment, "This is my commandment, That you love one another, as I have loved you," Alexis II's message said.

Catholics and Orthodox have been estranged since the 11th century.

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