VATICAN (CWN) -- Colonel Muammar Q'addafi has expressed interest in obtaining an audience with Pope John Paul II.

      The Libyan leader, whose country established diplomatic relations with the Holy See last year, told a reporter from the Italian newspaper La Stampa that relations are now "excellent," and that he hopes to capitalize on that amity by visiting with the Holy Father.

      The Holy See has argued against an international embargo on flights to Libya, in accordance with the consistent Vatican policy of opposition to embargos-- shown too in the statements that have been issued against embargos aimed at Iraq and Cuba.

     Meanwhile, The meeting between Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Pope John Paul II, scheduled to take place today, has already been the subject of a negative commentary from the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church.

      The Moscow Patriarchate has slammed the door on suggestions that the Russian leader might help advance Catholic-Orthodox relations, paving the way for a long-awaited personal meeting between Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Alexei II. There will be no such meeting until Rome solves "the Uniate question," the Patriarchate announced. And moreover, the Orthodox leadership noted, President Yeltsin has no authority in religious affairs.

      Ilarioan Alfeveiev, the Orthodox secretary for external affairs, told reporters that a summit meeting was "impossible" as long as the Holy See does not fulfill the demands of the Russian Orthodox Church to curb the activities of Eastern-rite Catholics in Ukraine. Orthodox leaders in Ukraine-- who are closely allied with the Moscow Patriarchate-- have complained about the pleas of Ukrainian Catholics for the return of parishes confiscated during the Stalinist repression there.

      In earlier statements which had been carried by the Italian press, Yeltsin had hinted that he might try to find an opening for dialogue between the Pope and the Russian Patriarch. The Orthodox spokesman made it clear that any such efforts would be made without support from the Orthodox Church.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT:To subscribe to Catholic World News Service, available daily by e-mail, click here .

February 10, 1998 volume 9, no. 29          DAILY CATHOLIC

Text Visitors to date in 1998