Tuesday 20 April


by Tatyana Titova, Keston News Service

On 1 April the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation refused registration to the Russian branch of the Jesuits under the 1997 law on religion. In a 17 April interview, FR STANISLAV OPIELA of the Jesuits told Keston's Moscow bureau that the 1997 law 'contradicts itself. It states that it does not interfere in the internal affairs of the Church, but in fact this is not true'.

At the request of GALINA KRYLOVA, the lawyer who had drawn up the reregistration documents for the Jesuits, the Ministry of Justice set out in writing its reasons for refusal. The following are extracts from this document, signed by the head of the Department for the Affairs of Social and Religious Organisations V. TOMAROVSKY and obtained by Keston.

'1. According to its founding documentation the founder of the Society of Jesus is a foreign religious organisation - the International Order of Jesuits "Society of Jesus". In accordance with Article 13 of the Federal Law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations" a foreign religious organisation may be given the right to open a representative body on the territory of the Russian Federation. Foreign religious organisations are not given the right to found religious organisations.'

'2. In its statement and adopted charter the Society of Jesus terms itself a centralised religious organisation. However, according to Part 4 Article 8 of the Law only an organisation consisting of no fewer than three local religious organisations is regarded as a centralised religious organisation.'

'3. The name of the organisation does not contain an indication of its organisational-legal form or confession, which contradicts Article 54 of the First Civic Code of the Russian Federation and Part 8 Article 8 of the Law. Moreover, according to Part 5 Article 8, as the name uses the word "Russian", evidence must be submitted proving the legal existence of the Society of Jesus on the territory of the Russian Federation over the course of no fewer than 50 years.'

'4. Several provisions in the adopted charter do not conform to the requirements of the legislation of the Russian Federation:

- Religious organisations do not have the right to create other local religious organisations (communities) as according to Part 1 Article 9 they are founded by citizens.

- The envisaged procedure for formation of the religious organisation contradicts the requirements of Articles 8 and 9.

- Property liquidated by a noncommercial organisation is not subject to distribution among its members but is directed at the purpose in the interests of which it was created, or for charitable purposes.'

Despite the numerous citations from the new religious law, Fr Opiela is determined to continue to fight for the reregistration of his order. He told Keston on 17 April: 'We did not change the procedure for formation of our organisation. The Ministry of Justice's position that Jesuits do not have the right to found religious organisations and that centralised religious organisations must consist of three local ones contradict the Constitution of the Russian Federation, the European Convention on Human Rights and the law on religion. In accordance with this law a religious organisation is created and carries out its activities in accordance with its own hierarchical structure. The independent Russian Branch of the Society of Jesus is a structural division of the Order of Jesuits and is created in accordance with the norms of canonical law and its own hierarchy.'

Fr Opiela also showed Keston documents confirming that the Jesuits were operating in Russia 200 years ago. By an imperial decree of 18 October 1800 the Jesuits were given the Church of St Yekaterina in St Petersburg, and by a decree of 12 October 1800 they were permitted a noviciate in Polotsk. TSAR PAUL I wrote on 20 November 1800: 'I was pleased to invite the Jesuits to My state and to afford them a firm position, to be helpful to such an esteemed Order as Yours, which has always had as its foundation and aim the dissemination of the principles of salvation which strive for the improvement of morals, bringing benefit both to individuals and to society at large.'

In the words of Fr Opiela, 'After 1917 there was no official activity by the order on the territory of the USSR, but individual Jesuits (eg FR IOSIF WERTH, now the Roman Catholic bishop in Novosibirsk), did operate on the territory of the Russian Federation.'

On 16 April lawyer Galina Krylova sent to the Ministry of Justice another request for registration. She included the documents confirming the existence of the order in Russia for 200 years as well as an amended charter and a document certifying that the Society of Jesus is a structural part of the Roman Catholic Church - the Moscow apostolic administration of which the Ministry has already registered as a centralised religious organisation. (END)

Tuesday 20 April


by Branko Bjelajac, Keston News Service

Most Evangelical missionaries from the USA and Western Europe have

left Serbia. An experienced Serbian Evangelical Christian worker

DRAGOLJUB JOVANOVIC, owner of the publishing house L.A.V., expresses

his frustration: �Some Christians are obviously afraid and shaken in

their faith. The fact that the missionaries have left the country and

now are sending messages about God�s providence from a safe distance

shows that they did not believe in what they professed. If they ever

return, after all of this is over, I am afraid that they will be

without the spiritual authority which is needed for the ministry.�

�The seed of bitterness toward the brethren from the West is

obvious�, Jovanovic added: �And with all of this they want us to feel

guilty and responsible for the situation in Kosovo.�

We talked to one of the few western Evangelical missionaries who has

chosen to stay. He preferred to remain anonymous. �If your question

is, "have mission relations been damaged?" I would say definitely

yes. But not because of any reasons a non-believer could think up!�In

every case where believers in the West failed to take action or

lumped one nation under the title of evil�and�in every case where

believers in Serbia failed to take action or blamed believers in the

West, it still boils down to the same problem on both sides:

forgetting who the real enemy is�Satan, father of lies. It is his job

to divide.�

�In the public debates in Belgrade the Baptists have been singled out

as supporters of aggression, and in particular the American Baptists,

since the American President Clinton is Baptist,� DANKO VIDOVIC, the

General Secretary of the Yugoslav branch of the International

Fellowship of Evangelical Students, and elder of the First Baptist

Church in Belgrade, told Keston News Service. �These days our church

is stoned regularly.�

�All the Protestants tend to be criticised publicly more than ever

before, since most of the NATO countries are Protestant, �Vidovic

continued. �In this country Protestantism was always considered only

skin-deep, without the roots and the spirituality of Orthodox


Last week one of the western-based ministries in Belgrade was asked

to leave the offices it had been renting for the last five years. The

only reason appears to be its ties with the West.

Local Evangelical Christian sources have stated that church buildings

in the cities of Kula and Leskovac have been damaged as a result of

bombing. Stores of humanitarian aid belonging to the Baptist Church

in Nis are said to have been hit by missiles during the night of 6-7

April. The humanitarian organisation of the Evangelical Baptist

Church in Yugoslavia �Love Your Neighbour� in Nis used to supply

humanitarian aid on behalf of all Baptist Churches in the South of

Serbia and Kosovo. The pastor of the Baptist Church in Nis, CEDO

RALEVIC, said that most of the aid - Christian literature, food,

clothes and furniture - was destroyed.

In today�s Yugoslavia, there are about 60,000 mainstream Protestants,

mainly Lutherans (42,000) and the Reformed (16,000). In addition

there are some 7,000 Evangelical Christians, including Baptists.

Baptists entered the territory of today�s Serbia 150 years ago, but

today they have no more than 1,300 believers in two unions. Last year

they closed the only Evangelical theological school in Yugoslavia,

with its three-year resident programme, hoping that in the future

they would have enough faculty and students to continue their work.