The Russian Orthodox Church has rejected an invitation from the Vatican for the Patriarch of Moscow and primate of the Russian church to visit Rome.
A trip by Alexi II to Rome in June would be premature, said the cleric responsible for the foreign relations of the Patriarchate, Igor Vyshanov.
The "delicate topic" of a meeting between the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, and Alexi II would require serious discussions between both sides.
The Vatican recently invited the Russian primate to visit Rome to mark St Paul's year.
The Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church have been separated since a schism in the 11th century.
Relations between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church remain strained despite ecumenical efforts by Pope Benedict.
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