PARIS (AFP) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy Wednesday hosted the spiritual leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Alexis II, who was invited to Paris by the French bishops' conference.
"This exceptional event is a major and palpable sign of the will of Europe's Christians to grow closer and unite around Europe's Christian roots," Sarkozy's office said in a statement after their meeting.
Sarkozy, who is due to visit Russia next week, also discussed the "state of Russian society and its aspirations" with the patriarch, and stressed the Church's role in "rebuilding Russian society".
Earlier, Alexis II repeated his wish to meet Pope Benedict XVI, saying his visit to France and meeting with Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, head of the bishops' conference, was a "first step" on the way.
The Catholic prelate said the visit "shows our wish to enter into even more fraternal relations with the Russian Orthodox Church."
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