MOSCOW (CWN) - Pope John Paul is still not welcome in Russia despite his recent success in visiting Communist Cuba, said a spokesman of the Russian Orthodox Church on Tuesday.

      "It's not that (Cuban leader) Fidel Castro is good and the Russian Orthodox Church is so bad," said Father Ilarion Alfeyev, a patriarchate official overseeing relations with other Christians. "The Roman Catholic church did not seize churches in Cuba, there wasn't this violence, this atmosphere that has developed here, and so in some ways it was easier." Father Alfeyev cited continuing disputes between Catholics and Orthodox over Catholic property in the Ukraine seized by the Soviets and handed over to the Orthodox.

      "As long as this tense situation continues, such a visit by the head of the Roman Catholic Church to Russia would be extremely undesirable for us," said Father Alfeyev. "It would spark protests from Russian Orthodox believers, so instead of being a holiday of Christian feelings among people, it would testify to the fact the wound inflicted on our Orthodox brothers in Ukraine is still bleeding."

      Ukrainian Catholics have repeatedly invited Pope John Paul to visit their country, an invitation the Holy Father has said he wants to accept, but Russian Orthodox opposition has consistently scuttled any plans.

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January 29, 1998 volume 9, no. 21          DAILY CATHOLIC