Pope-Putin visit: Is church détente in the works?

President Vladimir Putin’s Nov. 25 meeting with Pope Francis was the third  to the Holy See by a Russian leader since the two sides established full diplomatic relations in 2009. 

2. Earthly Property Disputes

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    Pope Francis (r.) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (l.) share a private audience at the Vatican, Nov. 25. Putin didn't invite Francis for a return visit.
    Claudio Peri/Pool/AP
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In the years after the 1917 Russian Revolution and Civil War, the Bolsheviks, who were atheists, seized all property belonging churches, Orthodox, Catholic or otherwise. (Many churches were turned into grain silos or livestock barns). A relaxation on religious restrictions by Stalin during and after World War meant a slow (and very quiet) reclaiming of some church property, but it was largely left to the Orthodox, with little involvement of “western” religions like the Roman Catholics. Disputed church property is more problematic where Ukraine is concerned (see below). The Orthodox Church, for its part, also has accused the Catholic Church of possessing valuable icons and other sacred items. John Paul II’s decision to return the venerated Our Lady of Kazan icon to the Russian church in 2004 was seen as an effort by the pope to persuade the Russians to allow him to visit.

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