.- Pope John Paul II and Russian President Vladimir Putin both expressed hope for a "positive development" in relations between the Vatican and the Orthodox church in their meeting yesterday.
In a gesture of reconciliation, the pontiff brought an icon of the Mother of God of Kazan, an important icon for Russian believers, into the meeting, which lasted a little more than 30 minutes. The icon usually hangs in the Pope’s private chapel.
The Pope said he wants to return the icon as a gift to the Russian people, but he didn't give it to Putin to take home. The Vatican made no mention of any papal visit to Russia.
The Pope blessed the icon, and then Putin kissed it, Vatican interpreters said.
According to Russian reporters, who were present at the meeting, the Pope thanked Putin for all he has done to improve relations between the two churches.