Pope Appeals to Russians to Respect Religious Freedom

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 13, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II appealed to Russian authorities to put an end to the crisis caused by the expulsion of some Catholic pastors from the federation.

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The Pope today said «the plight of Catholic communities in the Russian Federation, which for months now have seen some of their pastors prevented from returning to them for administrative reasons,» causes him «great suffering.»

In an interview Dec. 23 with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, Vatican secretary for relations with states, disclosed that three other Catholic priests from St. Petersburg were expelled. They are added to the list of Church men expelled in preceding months, including Bishop Jerzy Mazur of eastern Siberia.

«The Holy See expects from the government authorities’ concrete decisions which will put an end to this crisis, and which are in keeping with the international agreements subscribed to by the modern and democratic Russia,» the Pope said.

«Russian Catholics wish to live as their brethren do in the rest of the world, enjoying the same freedom and the same dignity,» he stressed.

The Holy Father made this appeal when he met with members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Vatican.

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