Patriarch condemns Pope's 'virtual visit' to Russia

 The head of the Russian Orthodox church condemned a live video link on Saturday, in which the Pope lead young people in prayer in the Roman Catholic cathedral of Moscow. Patriarch Aleksiy, said the event amounted to a "virtual visit" by the Pope to Russia. The broadcast was also screened in Athens, Budapest, Strasbourg and Valencia. But the Patriarch said it amounted to an "invasion of Russia". During his speech he referred to the Polish occupation of Moscow in the early 17th century. Hundreds of young Catholics attended the service at Moscow's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Saturday evening. The BBC reported that many were in tears as the Pope appeared on screen. There are an estimated 600,000 Roman Catholics in Russia, among a population of some 148 million. Many of them are ethnic Poles, Hungarians and other nationalities. The Orthodox church strongly protested to the Pope's visits last year to Kazakhstan and then the Ukraine, where there is a bitter wrangle over church property. The Moscow church threatened to cut ties after the Vatican announced in February that it was seeking to create four fully fledged dioceses in Russia. Saturday's broadcast looked in doubt at one point when Russian airport officials delayed television equipment coming through the airport.

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