"Religious freedom seriously threatened in Russia"

Declaration by the Conference of Catholic Bishops in Russia

Rome (Fides) - The President of the Conference of Catholic Bishops in the Russian Federation, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, presently in Lugano, Switzerland, made this declaration to Fides:

The events of recent months demonstrate the existence of an organized campaign against the Catholic Church in Russia.

Yesterday at Sheremetjevo-Two Moscow airport Bishop Jerzy Mazure, Ordinary of St Joseph's Catholic diocese at Irkutsk, who was returning to Russia, had his entry visa, withdrawn without any explanation. The visa was valid until January 2003. The Bishop, who is Polish, has made repeated requests for Russian citizenship, or at least a residence permit, but the answer was always negative. Two weeks ago, under similar circumstances, an Italian Catholic priest had his visa withdrawn. Foreign priests are finding it increasingly difficult to fulfil their pastoral duties.

These measures by state representatives harm first of all Catholic Russian citizens who remain without clergy and now even without a bishop.

Russian Catholics are wondering: who will be next? How long will this continue? Are they not also entitled to the constitutional guarantees of freedom of belief and the right to have their own clergy, including the right to invite the latter to come from other countries, not forgetting that for 81 years the Catholic Church in Russia was denied any possibility of training and ordaining its own priests? Does the state really consider them second class citizens? Are we seeing the return of the time of religious persecution? What will happen to our country's Catholics?

Russian Catholics are deeply disappointed by the silence regarding these events on the part of Russian and international Human Rights Organizations whose duty it is to defend the rights of religious minorities and by the absence of reaction on the part of the Chief Justice, who has the duty to see that law is respected. The only exception so far has been the Russian section of the International Association for Freedom of Conscience.

The expulsion of a Catholic Bishop, who has not broken any law, goes beyond every imaginable limit of civil relations between state and church.

With sentiments of serious concern we express our firm protest with regard to the violation of the constitutional rights of Russian Catholics. The Conference of the Catholic Bishops in the Russian Federation appeals to the organs of state power of the Russian Federation and in particular to President Vladimir Putin, as Guarantor of the Constitution, to the organs of Justice, to Russian and international Human Rights Organizations and to society in general, to re-establish justice, defend religious freedom and not allow discrimination against Russian Catholics.

Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz

Metropolitan in Moscow, President of the Conference of Catholic Bishops in the Russian Federation

Moscow-Lugano, 20 April 2002

20. april 2002

av Webmaster publisert 22.04.2002, sist endret 22.04.2002 - 10:59