KESTON NEWS SERVICE
Issue 9, Articles 16-17, 22 September 2000

Immediate reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in
communist and post-communist lands.
______________________________________
SUMMARIES:

I. MARRY A RUSSIAN, CATHOLIC BISHOPS TOLD. Registration of two
of the four Catholic jurisdictions in Russia remains blocked as they are headed
by foreign citizens. According to Russia's 1997 law on religion, a leader of a
religious organisation must be permanently resident in Russia and comply with
all legal requirements, but the status of foreign citizens is still governed by a
Soviet era law. The bishops remain without residence permits and their
applications for Russian citizenship were rejected earlier this month. A bill on
the status of foreign citizens rumoured to be considered by the Russian State
Duma soon might clarify this situation.

II.MOSCOW JEWS REFUSED REGISTRATION. The leader of the 300-
strong Severnaya Jewish community in Moscow has told Keston that the
community will take the local justice administration to court if registration is
not granted. Moscow justice officials told the community that it would not be
registered until the dispute between two rival Jewish umbrella organisations
had been resolved (see KNS 27 June 2000).


Friday 22 September 2000
RUSSIA: MARRY A RUSSIAN, CATHOLIC BISHOPS TOLD

by Tatyana Titova, Keston News Service

Registration of two of the four Catholic jurisdictions in Russia remains blocked
as the Apostolic Administrations in eastern Siberia and in southern European
Russia are headed by foreign citizens, Polish citizen Bishop JERZY MAZUR
and German citizen Bishop CLEMENS PICKEL respectively. According to
Russia's 1997 law on religion, a leader of a religious organisation must be
permanently resident in Russia and comply with all legal requirements. The
bishops remain without residence permits and their applications for Russian
citizenship were rejected earlier this month. One leading religious affairs
official described suggestions that the bishops should marry Russian citizens to
obtain citizenship as `scandalous'.

The bishops have already been refused residence permits since the current law
on the legal status of foreigners dates from Soviet times. Marriage to a Russian
citizen remains the main condition for the granting of a residence permit:
applicants for a residence permit on religious grounds are refused. The bishops'
situation might be improved by the adoption of a forthcoming new law on the
legal status of foreign citizens, said to be imminent.

Bishop Pickel, Apostolic Administrator for southern European Russia, has been
living in Russia for ten years. He was first priest of a parish in the town of
Marx on the banks of the Volga and moved across the river to Saratov when he
was appointed apostolic administrator. Like many other Catholic priests, the
overwhelming majority of whom are foreigners, he must obtain an entry visa
granting him residence in the country for a period ranging from three months to
a year. After becoming apostolic administrator, Bishop Pickel applied to the
regional governor for a residence permit as the Visa and Registration
Department had refused to accept his application since in their view he had no
grounds to submit one. Nevertheless his application was refused on the grounds
that `only marriage to a Russian' would lead to the granting of a residence
permit.

Bishop Jerzy Mazur, apostolic administrator of Eastern Siberia, had the same
experience as his colleague: he applied to the regional governor for a residence
permit, was refused and told that he should marry a Russian.

At the beginning of the year the bishops submitted applications for citizenship
to the Interior Ministry in Moscow. According to Bishop Pickel, the idea that
the two bishops should apply for Russian citizenship instead of residence
permits was suggested by Foreign Minister IGOR IVANOV during the visit of
Vatican State Secretary ANGELO Cardinal SODANO to Moscow last
December. The status of citizenship would be far preferable for the bishops
since the residence permits are very restrictive: each time they wish to travel
outside Russia they must obtain an exit visa, limited to two a year. More
important for Bishop Pickel is the fact that he has been living in Russia for ten
years: `I will die here and consider myself to be a citizen of this country.'
However, at the beginning of September the Interior Ministry refused both
citizenship applications.

TATYANA DYACHENKO, an official at the consular department of the
Interior Ministry who was present when the bishops met the deputy director of
the department, told Keston News Service on 12 September that the bishops'
hopes had been unfounded. In order even to apply for citizenship one must be
permanently resident in Russia for three years, in other words hold a residence
permit. `It was clear at the outset that the discussion was pointless,' she
declared. Despite this, the interior ministry prepared the necessary
documentation and referred them to the presidential commission for the
granting of citizenship. Dyachenko was happy with the rejection. `Nothing
connects them with Russian life, they have ended up in a parish in Russia by
chance. They are simply representatives of the Pope, but our religion is a
Christian one [sic].'

Dyachenko is not alone in these views. A high-ranking official in another
Russian ministry who did not want to be named told Keston that `the
establishment of Apostolic Administrations in Russia by the Catholic Church is
pure proselytism and an attempt to spread Catholicism by means of active
recruitment'.

The secretary to the papal nuncio in Moscow, Fr MAREK SOLCZYNSKI, told
Keston on 11 September that no Catholic priest had yet been granted Russian
citizenship, though residence permits were usually granted without any
difficulty, provided there were no bureaucratic abuses. However, this status is
not enough for the bishops, who oversee a huge area and need citizenship. `We
submitted an application with the required documentation. It is true that the
bishops did not meet the three-year permanent residency requirement, but we
had hoped that as the issue was being discussed at a high level this problem
could have been overcome.' Fr Solczynski reported that the bishops merely
received a standard reply rejecting their application.

ALEKSANDR KUDRYAVTSEV, formerly head of the department for the
registration of religious organisations at the Ministry of Justice, now deputy
director of the department for relations with religious organisations attached to
the committee for relations with political parties, social organisations, factions
and members of parliament at the Federal Assembly and Presidential
Administration, told Keston on 18 September that the conduct of officials who
had advised the bishops to marry a Russian was `scandalous'. He said that the
Russian State Duma would soon be considering a bill on the status of foreign
citizens, currently being drafted by the interior and foreign ministries. `The
current law, which was in force during the Soviet era, is woefully outdated. I
believe that the new law will clarify the situation and such difficulties will no
longer arise.' (END)


Friday 22 September 2000
RUSSIA: MOSCOW JEWS REFUSED REGISTRATION

by Tatyana Titova, Keston News Service

In the wake of the consistent refusal by the authorities to register the 300-
strong Severnaya (Northern) Jewish community in Moscow as a religious
organisation, the community's leader has told Keston News Service that the
community will take the local justice administration to court if registration is
not granted. Moscow justice officials told the community that it would not be
registered until the dispute between two rival Jewish umbrella organisations -
the Congress of Jewish Religious Communities and Organisations (KEROOR),
led by Rabbi ADOLF SHAYEVICH, and the Federation of Jewish
Communities of Russia (FEROR), led by Rabbi BERL LAZAR - has been
resolved (see KNS 27 June 2000). The Severnaya community - which belongs
to Shayevich's Congress - rejects this demand as unlawful.

ANATOLI VLADOV, the chairman of the Severnaya community, told Keston
on 21 September that he was suspicious when he saw the list of reasons for the
initial refusal of registration given by the Moscow department of justice in
mid-July. He told Keston that the department was correct in one of its
observations that the use of the word `Moscow' in the name of the organisation
has to be approved with the Moscow authorities. Another reason for the refusal
was the incorrect naming in the documents of the registering body as the
`Department of Justice', instead of the `Chief Department of Justice'. However,
Vladov was most concerned about the sentence: `There are also other
violations of the law.' When he asked officials of the justice department to
explain what these were he was told: `We're not going to explain, we're just
refusing [registration].'

When his community drew up a contract with a legal firm to prepare corrected
versions of the documents, Vladov recounted, officials of the justice
department told the firm's lawyers that `we will not register this community
and will find a reason to refuse you. Until the two organisations - KEROOR
and FEROR - make peace we do not want to create additional reasons for
enmity and increase them.' `We agreed with the lawyers that they should make
the documents perfect,' Vladov told Keston, `and if they again refuse we will
take the case to court.'

Rabbi ZINOVI KOGAN, chairman of the executive committee of the
KEROOR,
told Keston on 21 September that with 300 active members, the Severnaya
community had far more members than some other religious groups that
wanted to attain the status of an `organisation'. It also had recommendations
from the Social Service Centre for the wide-ranging charitable programme it
maintains.

Rabbi Kogan added that twenty KEROOR communities were still in the
registration process. `Given that there will be no reconciliation with the
FEROR, I do not want to believe our communities will not be registered,' he
declared.

An official of the Chief Justice Department of the city of Moscow, who did not
wish to be named, confirmed to Keston on 21 September that the Severnaya
community had been refused registration, adding that it had been decided to
refuse the community registration until the two umbrella organisations had
been reconciled. `Officials of the department of justice have no information
that this has happened.' (END)

Copyright (c) 2000 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.