( RIA Novosti ) - Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Alexy II will make his first official visit to France October 1- 4, a spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate said Monday.
Alexy II is to meet with members of the Russian Orthodox Church in France, French political leaders, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and leaders of non-Orthodox Christian churches.
On October 2, the 78-year-old patriarch will address a session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of European (PACE) and field questions from heads of PACE factions. Later in the day he will meet with PACE President Rene van der Linden, Council of Europe Secretary General Terry Davis, and Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica.
On October 3, he is due to meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, with a visit to the Russian cemetery Sainte Genevieve des Bois planned for the following day.
Alexy II will be accompanied on his visit by the head of the Moscow Patriarchate's foreign relations department, Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, and other officials.
The Russian Orthodox Church previously dismissed reports that Alexy would meet with the pope on sidelines of the PACE forum.
The Russian patriarch has refused all previous invitations from Pope Benedict and his predecessor, John Paul II, accusing the Vatican of trying to poach converts in post-Soviet countries regarded by the Russian Church as historically Orthodox.
Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Pope Benedict during a visit to the Vatican in March this year, and pledged help in reconciling the two divided Churches.