The Vatican foreign minister expressed hope Sunday that his meetings with Russian Orthodox Church leaders would pave the way for solving the tough questions that stand between the two churches.
Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo wound up a four-day trip to Russia by leading a Eucharistic Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Moscow on Sunday.
He said his Friday meeting with Russian Metropolitan Kirill, who heads the Russian church's foreign relations department, was "very promising." He said it "could also help to look with optimism forward to the other, more difficult ecumenical questions."
Pope John Paul II had long sought to visit Russia, and Pope Benedict XVI has continued his outreach to the Orthodox, saying that unifying all Christians was a top priority of his pontificate.
The head of the Russian church, Patriarch Alexy II, maintains that a papal visit to Russia would be possible only after the Catholic Church stops its alleged poaching for converts in Russia and other ex-Soviet lands and ends alleged discrimination against the Orthodox in western Ukraine.
Lajolo said the papal visit was not specifically discussed with Orthodox church representatives.
However, he said Benedict would like to visit Moscow, as he would like to receive the patriarch in Rome.
"But these visits when they happen, they have to bring fruit," Lajolo said. "So they must be prepared very well. We are not in a hurry.", AP reported. V.A.