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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Alexy II Congratulates Benedict XVI

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II congratulated the newly elected Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday and expressed hope the new pontiff would strive to develop relations between the two churches, rocked by Russian allegations of Catholic poaching of Orthodox believers.

Alexander Ogorodnikov, a religion expert and editor of an Orthodox magazine, said that judging by the past, Benedict would be more reserved in relations with the Orthodox Church than his predecessor, John Paul II. He said the pope, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, had stood behind a move to stop referring to the Orthodox branch of Christianity as a "sister church," which had significantly soured relations with the insulted Russian Orthodox Patriarchate.

Ogorodnikov said the fact that Ratzinger took the name Benedict -- after the Italian Pontiff Benedict XV, known for his dream of reuniting with Orthodox Christians -- may be seen as a sign that he will pursue that course.

The leader of Russia's Roman Catholics, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, predicted that the pope would help improve relations with the Orthodox Church.

In a congratulatory message, President Vladimir Putin expressed hope for joint work between Orthodox and Catholic believers in promoting shared values.