VATICAN CITY, JUL 18, 1997 (VIS) - Following is the letter, made public late yesterday afternoon, which John Paul II wrote to President Boris N. Yeltsin of the Russian Federation. Written in French, it is dated June 24.

"The memory of our cordial meetings inspires me to express to you in all confidence the serious concern which the recent bill, submitted to the Duma on June 15, concerning 'freedom of conscience and religious associations', has caused me.

"This text, very restrictive in relation to the 1990 law on 'religious confessions', if it were to be adopted, would constitute for the Catholic Church which is in Russia a real threat for the normal development of her pastoral activities and even for her survival.

"The Holy See has noted with regret that, in this text, no mention is made of 'traditional religions', among which Catholicism has always been numbered, and that not even once is the Catholic Church cited.

"If the principle of freedom of religion, which can be practiced individually and in community, is clearly affirmed, as well as the equality of religious communities before the law, other especially precise dispositions considerably reduce its scope.

"The dispositions of Chapter II, quite especially, lead one to think that the Russian civil authorities wish to equate the Catholic Church with a foreign community, without any consideration for her presence and centuries of activity in Russia, or for her specific hierarchical organization.

"I am sure, Mr. President, that, as in the past, you will know how to be discerning and, when the time comes, to make opportune decisions so that no legal or administrative obstacle comes to hinder the religious life of a good number of your fellow citizens who profess the Catholic faith and who expect from civil authorities respect and safety.

"Finally, I must recall here the commitments underwritten by Russia after the adoption in Vienna of the Final Document of the meeting of the CSCE (Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe), on January 19, 1989. The section dedicated to 'Principles,' stipulated that 'the participating States, among others, ... will respect the rights (of religious communities) to organize themselves in conformity with their own hierarchical and institutional structure'.

"Your Excellency will certainly understand my concerns as well as my great hope that everything will be done to assure the legitimate rights of believers, and that a new draft of a text can be achieved which, rich in international juridical patrimony in this matter, will be the guarantor of religious peace in the great Russian nation.

"I ask for you, Mr.President, and for all your fellow countrymen, the blessings of God, while I renew my sentiments of the highest esteem."

av Webmaster publisert 31.03.2006, sist endret 10.03.2011 - 02:48