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Russian and Polish church leaders sign appeal

Russian Orthodox and Polish Roman Catholic churches have made an unprecedented call for reconciliation. The churches also said religion should remain a driving force in both countries' political arenas.

Russia's Patriarch Kirill and Poland's Archbishop Jozef Michalik, the head of Poland's conference of bishops, made an unprecedented call for Polish-Russian reconciliation to put centuries of bloody history behind them.

The appeal was co-signed by both church leaders in a ceremony at Warsaw's Royal Castle, in what was the first-ever visit by the head of Russia's church to neighboring Poland.

"We appeal to the faithful to ask for forgiveness of harms, injustices, and all the evil we caused each other," the appeal document said. "Every Pole should see a friend and brother in every Russian, and every Russian should see a friend and brother in every Pole."

"We are convinced this is the first, most important step, towards restoring mutual trust without which there can be no real community or full reconciliation," said the text.

In a vigorous stand against secularization, they also committed to "defending the right to religion being present in public life."

Relations between the churches have suffered under the weight of history. For years, the Polish-born pope John Paul II dreamt of visiting Russia to forge reconciliation between Rome and Moscow prior to his death in 2005.

hc / msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)