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Orthodox Church Patriarch Expresses Condolences at Pope's Death

From Moscow, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II has sent a condolence message to the Vatican, saying members of his church mourn the loss of Pope John Paul together with all Roman Catholics.

In a letter to the dean of the Vatican's college of cardinals Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, Patriarch Alexy said Pope John Paul himself, as well as his works and ideas, have made a strong impact on the world. "May his memory live forever," the Russian church leader wrote.

Patriarch Alexy said he hopes the Orthodox and Roman churches can renew their "relations of mutual respect and fraternal Christian love" in the future, after a new Catholic pope is chosen.

Pope John Paul spoke many times about his hopes for closer relations between the Vatican and the church in Moscow, and of his wish to visit Moscow. All attempts to arrange a papal trip failed, however, with most observers saying objections from the Moscow patriarchate blocked the pope's travel plans.

Patriarch Alexy has accused the Roman Catholic church of trying to recruit converts in predominantly Orthodox areas of the world. The Vatican has denied such charges.

Some information for this report provided by AFP.