Vatican Protests Violations of Religious Liberty in Russia

Briefs Council at Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe

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PORTO, Portugal, DEC. 6, 2002 ( The Vatican condemned the violation of religious liberty in Russia and other countries, before a council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, Vatican secretary for relations with states, today told the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs that this year, in some OSCE countries, «leaders of communities of believers, among whom is a Catholic bishop, have been expelled from the country where they carried out their apostolate or have been impeded from being with their faithful.»

The archbishop was referring to the expulsion of Bishop Jerzy Mazur from his diocese in Siberia, and five other Catholic priests from the Russian Federation, without explanation.

The measures are especially grave since they violate agreements Russia endorsed as an OSCE member, Archbishop Tauran pointed out.

He also assailed practices in other member countries, such as Belarus, which adopted one of the most restrictive laws on religion in the world.

«These attitudes, often adopted arbitrarily, manifest mistrust toward the religious reality, ignoring the role of religions in civil society, a violation of international commitments freely endorsed and a discrimination against believers,» the archbishop said.

«When, for historical reasons, a confession is in the majority, and certain of its rights and privileges are recognized, this cannot take place in detriment to the fundamental liberties of other confessions present in the national territory,» he added.

«This happens, for example, when a church claims monopoly of religious life over the national territory, and appeals for the support of the state to ensure it better,» the Vatican official said.

Thus, «followers of other religions can become victims of an intolerable discrimination promoted by the law and the freedom of citizens consciences is threatened, who have the right to change their religion or not to have any,» he said.

The Vatican representative also referred to the problem of terrorism, the traffic in human beings, and tolerance and discrimination — key topics of the meeting of OSCE ministers.

The Vatican «has not ceased to encourage and support the efforts of those who try to eradicate the causes that are at the base of these realities, which disfigure the human person and endanger the survival of societies,» Archbishop Tauran said.

«Poverty, unemployment, lack of cultural resources, unresolved economic and social crises, are areas susceptible to becoming germs of the virus of hatred and barbarism, whose devastating effects are before our eyes,» he warned.

OSCE is the largest regional security organization in the world, with 55 participant states from Europe, Central Asia and North America. It is active in early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation.

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