Bishop Mazur Hopes to Return to His Siberian Diocese

He Works by E-mail, and Is Open to Dialogue with Orthodox

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 21, 2002 ( Two months after being expelled from Russia, Bishop Jerzy Mazur is hoping to eventually return to his Diocese of Irkutsk in Siberia.

The bishop, who tries to keep up to date with his diocese through e-mail, visited Rome for talks with the Pope and with Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, Vatican secretary for relations with states.

Bishop Mazur has not lost hope that the supposed «serious objections» imposed by Russian authorities can be ultimately clarified, allowing him to return to his diocese.

In statements to the Italian newspaper Avvenire published today, the Polish bishop stressed his willingness to dialogue and his desire to clarify controversial questions with the Orthodox, such as the alleged proselytism by Catholics.

«The Catholic Church, also in Russia, does not seek any forced conversion of Russian citizens,» he emphasized. «Instead, we labor in the proclamation of the Gospel, in the process of return to God, regardless of whether a person is in the Orthodox or Catholic Church or in other confessions.»

Bishop Mazur highlighted the need for constant prayer for Christian unity. «It is important to encourage people to surmount issues that divide in order to come out of the crisis,» he said.

Especially urgent in Siberia is the «memory of the sufferings endured by the faithful of different ethnic groups and confessions,» the bishop continued.

He explained the meaning of such an objective in the world´s most extensive diocese, with 16 million inhabitants.

«The reconstruction has begun, both of the Orthodox Church as well as of Catholic structures,» he said. «Among the common tasks, the good of the family and charity in favor of the poor should be emphasized.»

«The question of my return and, therefore, of legality, remains in the hands of the Holy See, the Russian Federation, and […] Poland,» the bishop added. «It has also been raised in recent meetings between Bush and Putin, and between Bush and representatives of the different religions, among whom is Catholic Bishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz.»

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