The head of the Russian Orthodox Church says he hopes the next pope will work to improve relations between the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches.

Patriarch Alexy made the comment in an interview with Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper.

He expressed respect for the late Pope John Paul II, but said many problems remain between the churches that split centuries ago.

He called on the next pontiff to denounce proselytizing.

The Russian Orthodox Church had long accused the Catholic Church of evangelizing in Russia and other predominantly Orthodox areas. That was  one of the issues that prevented Pope John Paul from fulfilling his long-desired wish to visit Russia.

Some information for this report provided by AP, Reuters.