Archbishop Sergyi of Solnechnogorsk said Patriarch Aleksei II wants to continue the dialogue between the churches, in schism since 1054. "Aleksei II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, does not rule out a possibility of the meeting, but thinks that conditions for it have not been laid by now," Sergyi told the ITAR-Tass news agency. Two issues remain as the primary obstacles to a meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch -- the Russian Orthodox Church's refusal to return property seized from Ukrainian Catholics during Soviet rule and the Patriarch's support for a law suppressing so-called Western religions in Russia, including Catholicism.
Pope John Paul has made reconciliation between the Catholic Church and various branches of Christianity a priority of his pontificate and has repeatedly sought a meeting with Patriarch Aleksei. "We know about the wish of the Vatican to conduct such a meeting, but there have been no changes in decision on this matter," Archbishop Sergyi said. There was no immediate reaction from the Vatican. The archbishop's remarks followed a meeting of the Orthodox Church's Holy Synod that ended Friday.