From - Thu Sep 25 09:42:38 1997

Wednesday 24 September 1997 MOSCOW'S CATHOLICS 'OUTMANOEUVRED' BY KREMLIN by Lawrence A. Uzzell, Keston News Service How did Russia's minority Christian confessions get manipulated into helping create a false image of consensus for a bill which will deprive their own members of basic religious rights?  In the case of the Roman Catholics, a key element was the absence from Moscow during a crucial period of ARCHBISHOP TADEUSZ KONDRUSIEWICZ.  The head of the apostolic administration for Catholics in European Russia, who of all the country's top Catholic leaders was the one most unwilling to accept the Kremlin's so-called 'compromise' legislation, was at home in Belarus visiting his seriously ill sister just as negotiations were nearing a climax at the end of August and beginning of September. >From Keston New Service's conversations with Archbishop Kondrusiewicz and with other Moscow Catholic sources, it is clear that poor communication and the lack of a clear strategy among the Catholic leaders also played a role.  And according to some of these sources, the Vatican's desire for peace with the Moscow Patriarchate created a climate encouraging the Russian bishops and priests to avoid confrontation. The Vatican's Council for Christian Unity, headed by CARDINAL CASSIDY, is 'very close to METROPOLITAN KIRILL' of the Moscow Patriarchate, one Moscow Catholic priest told Keston. 'Ninety-nine percent of Catholic priests here in Russia would disagree with its approach,' he said.  Sometimes the Catholic hierarchy in Moscow felt left out of conversations between Rome and the Patriarchate.  To this day Archbishop Kondrusiewicz does not know the purpose of the 26 August meeting in Moscow between PATRIARCH ALEKSI and Catholic ARCHBISHOP SCHOENBORN from Austria. It is clear in retrospect that the Catholics were the victims of deceit - that ANDREI LOGINOV of Yeltsin's staff led them to think that their proposals would be incorporated into the final 'compromise' bill, pressured them into supporting the compromise before its final version was completed, then issued a final version which ignored most of the Catholics' recommendations without first returning it to them for their review and approval. But perhaps more than any other minority confession, the Catholics themselves share the responsibility for their own defeat.  As early as 28 August - while the other minority confessions were still publicly opposing the latest proposed draft circulated earlier that week - Moscow diocesan chancellor FR VIKTOR BARTSEVICH was telling Keston that an acceptable compromise had been reached - even while conceding that the actual draft then in his hands still contained elements which he considered unacceptable. Unlike the major Protestant groups and the Old Believers headed by METROPOLITAN ALIMPI, the Catholics did not participate in a 28 August forum summoned by Duma deputy VALERI BORSHCHOV to make clear the minority confessions' opposition to this draft. In a 23 September interview with Keston, Archbishop Kondrusiewicz said that as of 28 August he himself had still felt that 'our objections had not been met'.  By that day he had discussed the latest draft with an official from the Ministry of Justice and had concluded that 'some progress' had been made, but he was still not satisfied.  Perhaps fatefully, on that same day he left for Belarus - not to return until 6 September.  On 8 September, after a busy weekend at elaborate ceremonies celebrating the 850th anniversary of the founding of Moscow, the archbishop discussed the legislation with Fr Bartsevich.  Almost immediately the archbishop wrote a letter attacking the bill's final version as unacceptable - a letter which was released to the public on 9 September.  But by that time the final version of the 'compromise' legislation had already been sent to the Duma over Yeltsin's signature as the president's formal counter-proposal to the bill which he had vetoed in July. Kondrusiewicz told Keston that it was a 'mistake' for the minority confessions to sign a 2 September appeal calling on the Duma not to override that veto - an appeal which enabled the Kremlin to claim, falsely, that all the minority confessions were supporting a bill which had not even been finally written at that point.  He said that he had not delegated to Fr Viktor the authority to sign any such document - but also that nobody expected such a document, that 'usually at meetings like this there were only speeches'. The Catholics' ARCHBISHOP WERTH of Novosibirsk was in Moscow, participating in the negotiations with the Kremlin, during the crucial week when Kondrusiewicz was away.  Keston asked the latter if Werth was more inclined than he to compromise.  'I don't know', he answered.  During the summer the two were never able to have a separate, private meeting on the subject, he said, since Werth was preoccupied with the forthcoming consecration of Novosibirsk's Catholic cathedral.  He told Keston that he also never had a strategy session with the papal nuncio in Moscow, ARCHBISHOP JOHN BUKOVSKY, because for most of the summer 'nobody was even talking about a compromise'.  He also received no direct guidance from the Vatican, he said. Fr Bartsevich told Keston in a 23 September conversation that it is now clear to him that he would not have signed the 2 September joint statement if Kondrusiewicz had been in Moscow that week. He also repeated his insistence of 11 September that the text of that statement made public by Loginov was not the same document which he remembers having signed.  In retrospect, he said, he now realises that there was too little coordination among the minority confessions - that they should have met with each other on their own, instead of letting Loginov negotiate with each of them separately and bringing them together only for meetings which he dominated.  He said that the minority confessions should have issued their own separate statement instead of signing the Kremlin's. A Moscow Catholic priest told Keston that Russia's Catholic leaders have 'a weak point' in their relations with the secular authorities: they are inexperienced in diplomacy.  'They were outmanoeuvred', he said. (END) --------------56E915F64955-- ------------------ RFC822 Header Follows ------------------ >From  Wed Sep 24 05:37:05 1997 Received: from ( []) by (8.8.5/8.6.9) with SMTP id FAA19256 for ; Wed, 24 Sep 1997 05:36:58 -1000 (HST) Received: (qmail 5217 invoked from network); 24 Sep 1997 15:36:52 -0000 Received: from (HELO localhost) (  by with SMTP; 24 Sep 1997 15:36:52 -0000 Message-ID: <> Date: Wed, 24 Sep 1997 16:30:41 -0700 From: Keston Institute Reply-To: Organization: Keston Institute X-Mailer: Mozilla 3.03 (Win95; I; 16bit) MIME-Version: 1.0 To: CC: Subject: KNS: CATHOLICS OUTMANOEUVRED BY KREMLIN Content-Type: multipart/mixed; boundary="------------56E915F64955"