RUSSIA: Duma Investigates Measures to 'Prevent the Spread of Catholicism'.

by Tatyana Titova, Keston News Service, 19 March 2001

The State Duma of the Russian Federation has instructed its Committee for International Affairs to ask the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for information about measures taken to ‘prevent the spread of Catholicism’ on the territory of Russia and other Orthodox states, Keston News Service learned from Nikolai Barkov, an employee of the Committee, on 12 March. The inquiry has aroused astonishment and disquiet among Russian Catholics. The originator of the committee’s inquiry was the deputy chairman of the State Duma, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia.

On 9 March, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, chairman of the Conference of Catholic Bishops in the Russian Federation and Apostolic Administrator for Latin-rite Catholics in northern European Russia issued an appeal in which he expressed his concern and also his regret at the fact that ‘an inquiry at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which has been formulated, in our view, so inadequately, has been given the official status of a document, issued in the name of so authoritative and respected an agency of power as the State Duma’. ‘We are a long way away from a situation where we would interpret the inquiry as the start of a serious political campaign, and are inclined to ascribe it to a sort of misunderstanding that has arisen through lack of information’, reads the Archbishop’s appeal.

At Zhirinovsky’s press office, Keston was told that the inquiry was connected to the impending visit to Ukraine by Pope John Paul II, and also with a February meeting in the Vatican between the Roman Pontiff and the Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. According to the press office, Zhirinovsky gave his detailed opinion of the Pope’s visit to Ukraine in an interview on 13 March, the text of would be distributed later.

A specialist on religious organisations at the State Duma’s Committee for matters relating to public associations and religious organisations, Stepan Medvedko, interviewed by Keston on 12 March, believes that ‘there’s no need to take the inquiry seriously’. ‘The answer from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be that there is no threat of Catholic expansionism,’ he suggests. (END)