Russian Parliament to Investigate Catholic Church´s "Proselytism"

Ultranationalists Support Orthodox Criticisms

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MOSCOW, FEB. 17, 2002 ( Ultranationalists have joined forces with the Russian Orthodox Church in criticizing the Catholic Church for its «proselytism» in this country. A parliamentary panel plans an investigation.

Parliament´s lower chamber, the Duma, decided Friday that its Committee on Religious Associations and Organizations should study «the situation created by the active proselytism of the Catholic Church in traditionally Orthodox territories,» Itar-Tass reported.

The decision came at the request of the Duma vice president, ultranationalist Vladimir Zirinovski.

Among other things, Zirinovski requested that entry visas not be issued to representatives of the Vatican and the four Catholic dioceses established in Russia. The Orthodox patriarchate strongly criticized the decision of John Paul II to set up the dioceses.

The Duma will ask the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about any possible offenses against the freedom of conscience committed by the Catholic Church in former Soviet republics.

The same day, Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls published a statement explaining that the creation of dioceses in Russia, in fact, involves freedom of conscience. He asked those who criticize the decision if they are prepared to respect this fundamental right in Russia.

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