Italian arrested at St. Petersburg airport trying to smuggle out icons

An Italian citizen was arrested trying to smuggle two icons out of St. Petersburg, the Northwestern Customs Department said on Monday. "Icons of St. Nicholas the Miracle-Maker and Our Lady of Tikhvin were found in the Italian's luggage. He tried to use the green corridor and declared nothing. The Italian did not have permission to take out the cultural valuables," the department said. A criminal case may be opened on contraband charges.

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The Orthodox ideal of unity may become the basis of Russia's political system

The Moscow Patriarchate believes that ideals of people's unity pursued by the Orthodox Church for years are still important for the country. "The society created on this basis is more efficient than any social environment or state riven by conflicts and controversy, and increasingly turning from manageable into unmanageable state," Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, Deputy Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, said at XII St. Petersburg International Economy Forum.

Cardinal Bertone to visit Belarus

Secretary of State of His Holiness the Pope Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone will visit for the first time Belarus at the invitation of the Belarusian government on June 18.

"State Secretary of Pope Benedict XVI Bertone will visit Belarus on June 18 - 22 at the invitation of the Belarusian government," Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Minsk and Mogilyov, told a news conference in Minsk on Thursday. The program of the visit provides for meetings with Belarusian authorities, as well as religious figures.

The Shroud of Turin, the burial linen of Jesus, on exposition in the spring of 2010

The Shroud of Turin, a cloth widely believed to be the burial linen of Jesus, will be put on exposition in the spring of 2010, announced Benedict XVI.

The Pope divulged the news today upon receiving in audience some 7,000 faithful from the Archdiocese of Turin. Prior to the audience, Cardinal Severino Poletto, archbishop of Turin, had celebrated Mass for the pilgrims in St. Peter's Basilica.

Reflects on Progression in Letter to Russian Patriarch

The Church and the Russian Orthodox have been growing closer together in friendship and in the desire to promote common values, says Benedict XVI.
The Pope said this in a letter he sent to Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia. The letter was delivered by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, during his 10-day visit to Russia, which ends today.

The trip was undertaken at the invitation of Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, the president of the Department of External Affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate, reported the pontifical council.

The fifth Orthodox Music Festival in Pomorie, Bulgaria

Pomorie will greet more than 700 choristers from nine countries for the fifth Orthodox Music Festival, to be held from June 7 to 11. Among the new participants this year is the chamber choir of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in Berlin. Russian and Greek church officials are expected to be present at the festival.

Officially named for the Holy Virgin Mother (Света Богородица - Достойно есть), the festival drew applications for participation from more than 3000 candidates; out of these were chosen 31 groups from Belarus, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine.