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Russians living in Italy are able to satisfy their spiritual needs
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 bishops. 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.
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