PATRIARCH GRATEFUL FOR PUTIN'S RESTRAINT.

Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II told reporters on 7 June that he is highly appreciative of President Putins understanding of the problems in the relationship between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Vatican, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2000). Alexii said "an invitation to the Pope, who is both the head of state and head of a church, to visit Moscow should also be made by Moscows Patriarch" as well as by the head of the Russian state. Aleksii charged that the Catholic Church is trying to "expand [its influence] into Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine." A new round of talks between the two Churches is scheduled for next fall, at which time the issue of Catholic proselytism in Russian and Western Ukraine will be raised. JAC