Issue 9, Article 12, 18 September 2000

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

Monday 18 September 2000

by Tatyana Titova, Keston News Service

The Russian branch of one of the Catholic Church�s biggest religious orders,
the Jesuits, has finally achieved its goal of re-registration under Russia�s
amended 1997 law on religion. First registered in September 1992 under the
terms of the 1990 religion law, the Russian Independent Region of the Society
of Jesus was re-registered on 12 September. The Jesuits working in Russia have
long been fighting for the right to re-register their organisation while being able
to continue to operate in conformity with the provisions of the Catholic
Church�s canon law and their own organisational structure.

On 1 April 1999, the Russian Federation�s Ministry of Justice refused the
Independent Russian Region the re-registration required by the 1997
amendments to the religion law. According to this law, the Russian branch of
the Society of Jesus, as a centralised religious organisation, should have been
made up of three local organisations, each one of which should have been set up
by ten Russian citizens, whereas the organisation was formed by the provincial
under a decree from the Rome-based General of the Society of Jesus on 21 June
1992. Therefore, Russian Jesuits were only offered the right to establish a
�representative office�, which would not be permitted to engage in �cult or other
religious activity�.

Unlike many religious organisations at that time which changed the way their
organisations were run - even if only on paper - the Jesuits refused to do so.
They appealed to the Russian Constitutional Court for protection of their rights,
which are secured by the Russian Constitution and the European Convention on
Human Rights, as well as article 5 of the religion law which declares that a
religious organisation may establish itself and conduct its activity in line with
its own hierarchical structure. On 13 April 2000, the Constitution Court ruled
that �the constitutional rights and freedoms of the plaintiff have not been
infringed�, but decreed that the Jesuits should be re-registered and should be
allowed to retain all of their regulations (see KNS 26 May 2000).

However, the Russian Jesuits� problems with re-registration did not end here.
The Moscow-based lawyer GALINA KRYLOVA, who represented the Jesuits
in the Constitutional Court and at the Ministry of Justice, told Keston News
Service that even then officials twice refused to consider the re-registration
application, citing the fact that the provincial, and the person responsible for
the appeal to the Constitutional Court, Father STANISLAW OPIELA, did not
have a permit for residence in the Russian Federation. And so Father JERZY
KARPINSKI, who did have a residence permit, took over his position, and on
14 September the Russian Jesuits received documents confirming their re-

On 15 September, VIKTOR KOROLEV, the head of the department for
registration of religious organisations at the Ministry of Justice, commented
laconically on the decision, telling Keston: �They presented their documents in
line with current legislation, and we were able to re-register them.� Father
Opiela declared that he was very happy his order had been re-registered in line
with Russian legislation and with the provisions of canon law. �I know what
forces were brought to bear to ensure that we would not be re-registered,� he
told Keston on 15 September, �and I am very happy that the law has
triumphed.� (END)

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