VATICAN (CWN) -- President Boris Yeltsin will visit Pope John Paul II in early February, the Vatican has announced. The visit will be the second meeting between the Holy Father and the Russian leader; the first meeting took place in Rome on November 20, 1991.

      The Vatican also announced that a delegation from the Holy See will meeting with representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow this week. The Vatican delegation, headed by Cardinal Edward Cassidy, will apparently not meet with Patriarch Alexei II, who has avoided direct meetings with the Pope and his representatives during the past year.

      The Kremlin had announced on Monday that Yeltsin would visit Italy next month and meet with Pope John Paul, apparently to repair relations damaged by new Russian laws restricting the practice of non-Orthodox religions, including Catholicism. Now it's official.

      Yeltsin will visit Italy during February 9-11 and will also meet with Italian political leaders. Last September, Yeltsin signed a new law that gives preferential treatment to the Russian Orthodox Church under the law and sets up roadblocks for the practice and expansion of other faiths.

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January 14, 1998 volume 9, no. 14          DAILY CATHOLIC