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ORTHODOX CHURCH DENIES PLANS FOR PAPAL MEETING

The patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church is not ready to meet with the pope to help repair a nearly 1,000-year-old rift, though he wants to continue dialogue with the Vatican, a church spokesman said Saturday.

No such meeting has been held since the Great Schism of 1054 split the Christian faith into Orthodox and Catholic beliefs.

Archbishop Sergyi of Solnechnogorsk, spokesman for the Russian church, denied reports that Patriarch Alexy II has agreed to meet Pope John Paul II in June.

The two leaders had reportedly planned to meet in Austria last year, but Patriarch Alexy canceled because of unresolved disputes with the Vatican over church property and Catholic missionary work in Russia.

The Russian church -- the largest of Orthodoxy's 15 main branches -- has repeatedly complained about Western churches' efforts to seek converts in Russia and other regions it considers Orthodox.

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