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Church foils suggestion of papal visit to Russia

As Russia's President Boris Yeltsin met Pope John Paul II at the Vatican Tuesday during a three-day state visit to Italy, the Russian Orthodox Church firmly scotched any suggestions that the pope might visit Russia.

"I think the president knows that the Russian Orthodox Church has currently a negative attitude to the idea of a papal visit," said Hilarion Alfeyev, the Moscow church official responsible for relations with non-Orthodox churches.The pope and Yeltsin spoke privately for about an hour at the Vatican, but few details about their discussions were disclosed to the public. Though such audiences are largely a formality routinely accorded to heads of state visiting Rome, the meeting with Yeltsin was widely reported by the media as both men are viewed as major protagonists in bringing communism to an end.