Russian Journalist Panel Assails Libel Against Franciscans

MOSCOW, JAN. 12, 2003 ( An ethics panel of Russian journalists condemned the way in which two news outlets libeled a community of Conventual Franciscans by falsely implicating the friars in a prostitution ring.

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The panel, which monitors the conduct of journalists, stated that the Komsomolkaya Pravda newspaper and the Ostankino television network used underhanded means to level serious accusations against the religious.

Without the Franciscans’ knowledge, the apartment they rented from a woman to «organize charitable activities» in Moscow was converted into a house of prostitution. The newspaper and TV network used false information to make their reports appear real, the ethics panel said.

The panel said that the news outlets used tendentious arguments and ignored the explanations given by Father Gregorio Cioroch, the community’s superior.

Father Cioroch hailed the ethics panel’s decision, saying that it showed that «Russia is a state of law.»

Last Oct. 14 the Vatican Press Office assailed the «ignoble operation» of the smear and said that the papal representative in Moscow had «protested energetically before the competent authorities.»

From the start, Franciscan superiors denied all accusations.

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