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Official of Russian Orthodox Church likes his meeting with Pope Benedict XVI

The meeting of the Russian Orthodox Church with Pope Benedict XVI was found "very positive".

Metropolitan Kirill, the top foreign relations official in the Russian church, held private talks with Benedict at the Vatican.

The Vatican gave no details of the talks, but in an interview with Vatican daily L'Osservatore Romano, Kirill said the visit left him "with great sentiments of hope."

Relations between Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholics in the former Communist land have been particularly tense at times.

The Russian Orthodox Church has accused Roman Catholics of improperly seeking converts in traditionally Russian Orthodox areas. The Vatican has rejected the claim, saying it only ministers to the country's Catholics, mostly of Eastern European and German origin, and who number about 600,000 in a country of 142 million.

The tensions prevented Pope John Paul II from realizing his dream of visiting Moscow during his quest to bring Orthodox and Catholics closer together.

Benedict has also made efforts toward Orthodox-Catholic unity a priority of his pontificate.

Kirill was quoted as sounding a cautiously upbeat note when the Vatican newspaper asked him to describe relations between the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate and the Catholic Church.

"Very positive," Kirill replied. "Just as the meeting with the pope for me was very positive and very beautiful."

"We await and we hope for a positive development of our relations so that, finally, Russian Catholics live in peace with Russian Orthodox," the metropolitan was quoted as saying.

He renewed his call for both sides to work together to strengthen Christian influence in Europe.

"Catholics and Orthodox are ever more united in facing the multiple challenges that come to us from the contemporary world and from secularization," Kirill said. "This must encourage us to pay witness together to the Christian values in our society."

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