Russia Recognizes Catholic Diocese of St. Clement of Saratov

Accepts Clemens Pickel’s Status as Bishop

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SARATOV, Russia, AUG. 24, 2004 ( Bishop Clemens Pickel of the Catholic Diocese of St. Clement of Saratov, in the Volga, Russian Federation, said that his diocese has been given full legal recognition by the government.

In statements transmitted by Vatican Radio’s German section, the 43-year old prelate said, «Now we have the right to bring guests from abroad, to build structures or churches. We are, therefore, a juridical person.»

Such legal status also allows the bishop of Saratov to be recognized publicly in Russia.

«Until a short time ago, even here, in Saratov, where I have lived for a long time, people said: ‘We know Clemens Pickel, he is registered in our books as parish priest in Marx city, but we don’t know anyone as Bishop Pickel!'»

«With this they wished to show me that officially I am practically no one,» the prelate added. From now on, different authorities, such as the governor or mayor, will be able to address the Catholic bishop of St. Clement of Saratov.

The establishment of the diocese of St. Clement of Saratov took place on Feb. 11, 2002. On that date, the Holy See made public the raising to the rank of diocese of four apostolic administrations of Russia.

The other three are the Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow, led by Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz; the Diocese of the Transfiguration in Novosibirsk, headed by Bishop Joseph Werth; and the Diocese of St. Joseph of Irkutsk, which at the time was entrusted to Bishop Jerzy Mazur.

Bishop Mazur was expelled from the country without explanations after the establishment of the Catholic dioceses. In April 2003, the Pope named Monsignor Cyril Klimowicz to replace the expelled prelate in the leadership of the St. Joseph Diocese. Bishop Mazur was named head of the Diocese of Elk, in Poland.

Bishop Pickel concluded his statement Monday on Vatican Radio by expressing the hope that the Catholic dioceses of Siberia — Novosibirsk and Irkutsk — will soon receive juridical recognition. The Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow was recognized by the state about a year ago.

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