Foreign Religious in Russia Asking, Who's Next?

MOSCOW, SEPT. 13, 2002 ( The president of the Conference of Catholic Religious of Russia has publicly expressed the fear that many foreign priests have of being expelled from the country.

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“What is worse is the tight secrecy that envelops all this and that no one gives the reasons that have motivated the expulsions,” said Father Mariano José Sedano, a Spanish Claretian. A Catholic bishop and four priests have been barred from Russia in recent months.

In a message sent to religious communities in Spain, the priest said, “Here, no one in the government says anything.”

Father Sedano, who is also a professor at a seminary in St. Petersburg, added: “Noteworthy among those to be expelled, is a priest who even had a residence permit, which is the highest document a foreigner can aspire to in Russia. Very few priests and religious have it.”

Sources in Spain say that French and Spanish priests and religious in Russia might well be treated better than Polish missionaries, for example, and have greater guarantees that they will not be expelled.

In any case, these expulsions “are in detriment to Russian Catholics’ right to have their own pastors,” Father Sedano added.

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