Tbilisi, November 9 (RFE/RL) - Pope John Paul celebrated mass today
before thousands of Catholics in an indoor sports arena in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. But members of the Orthodox Church obeyed their religious leaders and stayed away. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze attended the mass, and afterwards publicly embraced the pontiff and kissed him. Shevardnadze and John Paul have publicly praised each other. The pope's visit to Georgia was meant to improve relations between Rome and the Orthodox Church and possibly pave the way for an eventual trip to Russia. Today is the final day of his two-day trip.
In Moscow, Russian Patriarch Aleksii II said today a papal visit
would be impossible until certain problems are settled. He said the Roman Catholic Church had abandoned the principle of peaceful coexistence of religions as espoused by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.
Aleksii said pressure from the Roman Church led the Greek Catholic
Church to eliminate Orthodox dioceses and parishes in western Ukraine.
Meanwhile, a papal spokesman (Joaquin Navarro-Valls) said the
pontiff is suffering from a chill, but stressed that he has neither the flu or a fever.