Russia’s Orthodox patriarch sends pope Easter wishes of “joy and health”
Agence France Presse — English
March 27, 2005 Sunday 3:05 AM GMT
MOSCOW March 27 — The head of Russia’s Orthodox Church, Alexy II,
put aside the long-running rift with the Roman Catholic Church to
wish ailing Pope John Paul II “joy, health” and “God’s help,” in a
letter quoted by the Interfax news agency.
“From the bottom of my heart I wish you Easter joy about the Risen
Lord and Savior, good health and God’s help in your lofty service,”
the patriarch said in his message dispatched late Saturday.
Alexy also congratulated Armenia’s Catholicos Garegin II and Archbishop
of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who also celebrate Easter this Sunday.
The patriarch had been locked in a bitter row with the Vatican over
alleged Roman Catholic proselytism in Russia and had repeatedly refused
to meet the pope until he renounces so-called Vatican “expansionism”
in this predominantly Orthodox country.
Catholics, numbering around 500,000 in Russia, represent a tiny
minority of Russia’s 145 million-strong population, most of whom will
celebrate Orthodox Easter in May.