Vatican Still Awaiting Russia´s Explanation for Expelling Bishop

VATICAN CITY, MAY 7, 2002 ( Russia has yet to give an explanation for why it expelled a Catholic bishop two weeks ago, the Vatican says.

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Questioned by journalists, Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls recalled April 19 when Bishop Jerzy Mazur of the Diocese of St. Joseph of Irkutsk in eastern Siberia was denied entry into Russia at Moscow´s airport.

“The Vatican intervened immediately to ask the Russian Federation´s Minister of Foreign Affairs for an explanation of the reasons that led the border authorities to deny the bishop entry,” Navarro-Valls revealed.

“Surprisingly, it must be said that after a little over two weeks the requested information has yet to arrive,” he added.

The expulsion of Bishop Mazur and of Italian Father Stefano Caprio has reopened the debate on religious liberty in Russia. Moreover, the Duma asked President Vladimir Putin a few days ago to close the four Catholic dioceses recently created by John Paul II in the federation.

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