The Distance Between the First and Third Rome

MOSCOW/ROME: For a decade, Pope John Paul II has been flying in circles around Mother Russia: one day he visits the Baltics or his homeland of Poland; the next, Orthodox Romania and Georgia. In June, 2001 Pope John Paul II will visit Ukraine and Armenia, both parts of the former Soviet Union and both still watched over warily by Russia’s Orthodox Church. Karol Wojtyla, the first Slavic Pope in history, has long dreamed of visiting Moscow; indeed he may see such a visit as putting the finishing touch on his long, turbulent pontificate. But, a decade after communism’s collapse, it is Russia’s churchmen, not its politicians, who are blocking the way.