Moscow Archbishop Comments on Anti-Catholic Campaign

Assails «Asphyxiation of Religious Liberty»

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MOSCOW, SEPT. 12, 2002 ( Catholic Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz condemned the expulsion of two priests from Russia this week, and appealed to organizations for the defense of human rights.

«A wide anti-Catholic campaign is taking place in the country, with demonstrations and pickets, refusal of permits to build churches, acts of vandalism and profanation of places of worship, and with the creation of the myth of the Catholic-enemy,» the head of the Mother of God Archdiocese of Moscow wrote in a document distributed to the media.

«The systematic expulsion of priests has begun in recent months,» the archbishop added.

He deplored that these measures are «accompanied by brutal and insulting gestures, in the total absence of explanations.»

Archbishop Kondrusiewicz recalled that the recent expulsion of Polish priests was preceded by that of the Catholic bishop of eastern Siberia, also a Pole, and of two priests, an Italian and a Slovak.

«The question arises spontaneously: Whose turn is it now?» he added.

While all Russians are equal before the law, «in practice it happens that Catholics are second-class citizens, as they are denied the possibility of having a sufficient number of pastors,» the archbishop said.

«In fact, the principal victims of the persecution are not the expelled priests and Bishop, but their faithful, Russian citizens to whom the Constitution guarantees the same freedom of worship as it does to believers of other confessions,» the archbishop’s statement continues.

The presence of numerous foreign priests in Russia is due to the decades of prohibition of Catholic seminaries in Communist times.

The Catholic archbishop of the Russian capital appealed to «the defenders of rights and to all people of good will» to put an end to the «asphyxiation of religious liberty and the rights of the individual,» as well as to «new violations of freedom of conscience.»

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