GENEVA, SEPT. 15, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Russia has compiled a blacklist of Catholic priests it intends to expel in the near future, according to the Catholic bishop of western Siberia.
Commenting on the “new wave of persecution” against the Catholic Church in the federation, Bishop Joseph Werth of Novosibirsk made this disclosure during a series of conferences and meetings held last week in Switzerland. He was invited there by the group Aid to the Church in Need.
Bishop Werth, whose comments were published by the Vidimus Dominum news service, said the police blacklist includes about a dozen names of foreign Catholic priests who will soon be expelled.
To date, Bishop Jerzy Mazur of St. Joseph in Irkutsk, eastern Siberia, as well as four priests of Italian, Polish and Slovak nationality, have been expelled.
Bishop Werth said that Russia needs a “spiritual rebirth, because people want to experience a real inner conviction.” Only 1% of Russian Orthodox go to church.
According to the bishop, the hostility against the Catholic community is supported by representatives of the Orthodox hierarchy, but they do not have much following among the people.
“At the popular level, the faithful don’t hate the Catholic minority,” Bishop Werth said. “Last April, about 2,000 Orthodox organized anti-Catholic demonstrations in a dozen cities. Despite calls from Orthodox parishes, people did not come out en masse to the streets to protest against the Catholic presence.”