John Paul II Offers Mass for Catholics in Russia Without Pastors

Moscow Archbishop: “We Don’t Wish to Invade Anyone’s Territory”

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 26, 2002 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II offered a Mass today for the Catholic communities in Russia that suffer the lack of a bishop or priests, sources close to the Pope told ZENIT.

Over the past few months Bishop Jerzy Mazur of St. Joseph’s in Irkutsk, in eastern Siberia, and four foreign-born priests have been expelled from the Russian Federation. Russian authorities have not explained the expulsions.

Regarding accusations of proselytism leveled against Catholics by the Orthodox Church, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Moscow told the Italian weekly Famiglia Cristiana: “We do not wish to invade anyone’s territory, we do not want to steal faithful from anyone.”

“However, we emphatically confirm the principle that each man has the right to choose his own faith,” he stressed.

“Why should the Catholic Church not have the right to exist and operate in Russia?” the president of the bishops’ conference of Russia asked. “The idea that all Russians must be Orthodox because they are Russian is absurd: It would be like saying that all Italians must be Catholics because they are Italians.”

More worrying for him is that “the last meeting of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church stated that it does not even wish to discuss the definition of proselytism.”

“Clearly, there are different definitions,” the archbishop said. “But it is also clear that if we do not sit down at a table to discuss, it will be impossible to understand one another.”

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