Russian Archbishop Denies "Expansionist" Charge

Calls Extremist´s Accusations Unfounded

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MOSCOW, MAR. 14, 2001 (ZENIT.orgFIDES).- Catholic Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz says a nationalist parliamentarian´s claims of «Catholic expansionism» in Russia are a result of «a series of misunderstandings caused by insufficient information.»

Last week the Duma´s vice speaker, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, called for an enquiry into Foreign Ministry measures, in order to «prevent the expansion of Catholicism» in Russia and other Orthodox countries, and to brake the Pope´s visit to Ukraine this June.

Archbishop Kondrusiewicz, apostolic administrator for Catholics in Northern European Russia, expressed his «well-founded preoccupation» over the initiative of the extreme rightist political leader.

«The investigation of the Foreign Ministry´s activity, so inadequately formulated, has assumed the value of an official document, on behalf of an authoritative and respectable body, such as the Duma,» the archbishop said. «The Duma is the body of representative power called to express and defend the interests of the whole society, including religious minorities, such as Russian Catholics.»

This «interrogation» is not a «signal of the beginning of a political campaign» but only the fruit of «a series of misunderstandings caused by insufficient information,» Archbishop Kondrusiewicz stressed.

The Vatican agency Fides said Orthodox sources insisted that the number of foreign Catholic missionaries and religious in the Russian Federation is «excessive.»

Fides, however, estimates that «to reach the millions of Catholics dispersed over the vast territory of the Russian Federation, at least 600 priests are needed, three times the 200 operating at present.»

«Moreover, many of these, unable to obtain residence permits, have periodically to leave the country and then return again,» Fides explained. This is the case, for example, of Father Stanislaw Opiela, secretary of the Catholic bishops´ conference.

Another factor against Catholic «expansion» is the lack of infrastructure. Russian Catholic parishes and communities have retrieved less than 20% of the Church property that they had prior to 1930.

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