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Russian-Vatican relations greatly improved, says Cardinal Kasper

.- Relations between the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches have greatly improved in the last 40 years since Nostra Aetate, Cardinal Walter Kasper told a press conference Monday.

The “ice is thawing,” he said, but added that Pope Benedict XVI would likely not visit Russia soon, reported The Associated Press.

He explained that Moscow Patriarch Alexy II hasn't excluded a meeting but that key issues had to be resolved first. One important issue is the Russian Orthodox Church's accusation that the Roman Catholic Church is proselytizing in Russia. The Vatican denies the charge.

However, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, the Vatican's foreign minister, is expected to visit Russia for several days starting on Wednesday, reported the Russian news agency Itar-Tass.

The cardinal spoke to reporters about ecumenical developments, reporting some progress as well as some “worrisome developments,” reported the AP. In particular, he said, Pentecostal movements have grown due to "aggressive proselytism" at the expense of the Catholic Church in places such as Brazil, where the Catholic population is shrinking 1 percent each year, due to the Protestant movements.

The cardinal said such "aggressive fundamentalism" from old and new movements stunts ecumenical dialogue. It is not possible for the most part to establish a dialogue based on respect. Dialogue presupposes mutual respect, and with these sects it's not possible," he was quoted as saying.

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