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Canonization of Russian Czar Mulled

MOSCOW (AP) - The Russian Orthodox Church may decide next year whether to move toward canonization of the country's last czar, Nicholas II, executed by the Bolsheviks in 1918, the head of the church said Monday.

Church officials earlier had said a decision could be made by a Synod council this year. But the Synod session held in Moscow this week has not discussed the possibility of canonizing Nicholas, and is not authorized to decide on the issue, Patriarch Alexy II said.

``Now, only the archbishops' assembly in 2000 has the right to decide whether to put the issue on the agenda or postpone it until the next all-church assembly,'' Alexy was quoted as saying.

Nicholas II was executed by a Bolshevik firing squad in 1918, a year after the Russian revolution, along with his family and four servants. Their remains were recovered in 1991 and buried in St. Petersburg last summer.

Alexy has opposed Nicholas' canonization, saying that the czar and his family did not deserve sainthood for the way they ruled the country and led the church before they were executed.

Other church officials have suggested that Nicholas should be regarded as a victim of the Bolsheviks, and therefore worthy of canonization as a martyr.