Rising Catholicism Irks Far-Right Russian

Zhirinovski Wants Upcoming Papal Visit to Ukraine Probed

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MOSCOW, MAR. 9, 2001 (ZENIT.orgFIDES).- A nationalist politician plans to scrutinize the rebirth of Catholicism in Russia and the upcoming papal trip to Ukraine with an eye toward impeding the expansion of the Catholic Church in Orthodox lands.

Vladimir Zhirinovski, vice president of the Russian parliament and leader of the far-right Democratic Liberal Party, has succeeded in having a parliamentary commission request a report on these matters from the Foreign Affairs Ministry, according to the Vatican missionary agency Fides.

Under the request, the Foreign Affairs Ministry must also report on the Moscow government´s reactions to John Paul II´s upcoming visit to Ukraine in June. The parliamentary committee will ask the Foreign Affairs Ministry to list the reasons for last month´s meeting between Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and the Pope at the Vatican.

Zhirinovski also succeeded in getting the Russian Parliament to request another report from the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation on the measures that must be taken for the return of the icon of the Mother of God of Kazan to its native land. Press sources say the icon is in the Vatican.

The measures proposed by Zhirinovski are being articulated after Moscow´s Patriarch Alexis II complained Tuesday that Russian politicians were pressuring him to accept the Pope´s visit.

Zhirinovski met in February with the Metropolitan Archbishop of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, Kiril Gundjaev, president of the patriarchate´s Department for External Relations, and discussed the Pope´s visit to Ukraine and the current Orthodox schism in that country.

Zhirinovski proposed the organization of «propaganda trains» which would cross Ukraine to persuade the Orthodox population to remain under the authority of the Moscow Patriarchate, instead of obeying the Orthodox Church that has proclaimed itself autocephalous.

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