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Russian Orthodox Church Takes Possession Of Kazan Icon

29 August 2004 -- The Russian Orthodox Church has taken possession of a religious icon that hung for years in the private chapel of Pope John Paul II.

The 18th century replica of the Mother of God of Kazan icon went missing early in the 20th century. It was later found and presented to the pope by a Catholic group in 1993.

The pope had been hoping to use the return of the icon to improve relations with the Russian Orthodox Church. Ties have been strained by Orthodox allegations that the Catholic church is actively recruiting believers in Orthodox countries.

In a ceremony in Moscow yesterday, Russian Orthodox Partriarch Aleksii II thanked Vatican cardinal Walter Kasper for returning the icon. He said, however, conditions are "not right" for a papal visit to Russia.