JOHN PAUL II RECEIVES RUSSIAN PRESIDENT Interview Focused on Integration of East and West

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 5 ( John Paul II received Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, on June 5, at 6:30 p.m. in the Vatican.

The audience with the Holy Father was of a private nature, and was followed by President Putin's meeting with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican Secretary of State, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, Secretary for Relations with States, and Igor Ivanov, the Russian Federation's Minister of Foreign Affairs.

According to Vatican spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, "during the meetings a review was made of the Vatican's and Russia's roles in the process of integration between East and West" in which, according to President Putin, "the Holy See's mission is particularly important," the official statement revealed. Moreover, it was agreed that special attention must be given "to the problems of disarmament and the international situation."

Putin, a former KGB agent, described his meetings at the Vatican as "very significant," and something he had looked forward to from the very beginning of his presidential mandate.

When John Paul II received President Putin, he said: "I am very happy to receive you in the Vatican at the beginning of your mandate." Navarro-Valls was guarded on the question of a possible papal visit to Russia, one of the Pope's hopes since the beginning of his pontificate, which could be a decisive step in the dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox.

The Vatican spokesman referred to the more positive tone used over the weekend by Alexy II, Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church in connection with a possible meeting with the Pope. In general the leader of the Russian Orthodox is harshly accusatory of the Vatican for the growth of Catholicism in traditionally Orthodox areas, which the Patriarch often refers to as "proselytism."

The meetings at the Vatican lasted a total of 50 minutes, 30 of which Putin spent in a face-to-face discussion with John Paul II. The only witnesses to the conversation were the interpreters.

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RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH PLEASED WITH PUTIN'S VISIT TO POPE President Withholds Pope's Invitation to Visit Russia

MOSCOW, JUNE 6 ( The Moscow Patriarchate expressed satisfaction over the fact that President Vladimir Putin did not invite John Paul II to visit Russia during the meeting he attended yesterday with the Pontiff in the Vatican.

Vsievolod Ciaplin, spokesman for Patriarch Alexy II, said that not inviting the Pope to travel to Russia was "a wise and moderate position."

Putin's decision "is worthy of great respect," the spokesman added. The Moscow Patriarchate recognizes that the Russian President had the right to invite the Pontiff but, in this way, manifested its understanding that the "question cannot be addressed by separating it from relations between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church and, more generally, from the problem of relations between State and Church in Russia."

Yesterday, in responding to journalists, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said that there are still hopes for a possible Papal trip to Moscow. "A door remains open until it is definitively closed," he said.

Both Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin invited John Paul II to visit Russia. Therefore, many expected that Putin would renew the invitation. However, according to Navarro-Valls, the topic was not touched upon, at least officially, during the 30-minute meeting between the Holy Father and the Russian President.