VATICAN (CWN) -- Russian President Boris Yeltsin visited Patriarch Alexei II of Moscow yesterday, to wish him a happy birthday (his 69th), and to give the Orthodox leader a report on Yeltsin's February 10 meeting with Pope John Paul II.

      "We had a peaceful conversation," the Russian president the Patriarch, according to a report in the Itar-Tass news agency. "We avoided hot topics like his visiting Russian and the relations between the two [Catholic and Orthodox] churches."

      The Itar-Tass report indicated that Patriarch Alexei said he was interested not in mounting a crusade but in "finding some reciprocal understanding," so that the tensions between Rome and Moscow might be resolved. He reportedly added that the Moscow Patriarchate and the Holy See are engaged in "very difficult" negotiations regarding "certain points which make our relations very delicate." He was referring to the conflicts between Ukrainian Catholics and their Orthodox neighbors over the distribution of Church property confiscated during the Stalin era.

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February 25, 1998 volume 9, no. 40         DAILY CATHOLIC