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    PUTIN HANDED OVER TWO ICONS TO PATRIARCH ALEXY II

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    MOSCOW, January 22nd, 2004 (RIA Novosti correspondent) - After meeting Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II and Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa Peter VII currently in Russia for a visit, President Vladimir Putin gave two icons of the 16th century to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church for their subsequent placement in the Novodevichy Monastery in St. Petersburg.

    The meeting was held in the Kremlin residence of Alexy II.

    One icon, St. Nicholas the Wondermaker, belongs to the Moscow school of icon painting, and the other, Day of Judgement, to the Novgorod school.

    When handing in the relics, Putin noted that those were "the much-worshipped icons for centuries". They were legally sold abroad by the Soviet government at a time, and recently bought back and returned to Russia, said the president.

    In his turn, Alexy II stressed that "relics taken outside the country were returning to the country" with the president's help. "They have a special advantage of being much-worshipped, many generations worshipped in front of them. We are seeing the times of the relics' return to the motherland," said the patriarch.

    African Patriarch Peter VII noted in turn that "the return of the icons to our country is bringing back big faith." Putin invited Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa "to come to Russia more often."

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