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Catholic Church still faces 'major 
obstacles' in Russia

Excerpts taken from L'Osservatore Romano, May 18, 1994

To understand what is happening in Russia today we must recall what Stalin did to religion before, during and after the Second World War. He appeared to change his stand but he didn't really as the article on page 29 points out.

Stalin set up the puppet so-called "Russian Orthodox Church" in 1927 which continues to this day to be an instrument of the Militant Atheists who ruled Russia then and who continue to this day.

For an outline of this apostasy forced on the "Russian Orthodox Church" read the article "What Happened in 1929?".

But it is not only for historical interest we recommend this article to you. It is also a key to help you understand current events in the religious sphere in Russia today.

Russia's small Catholic Church still faces "major obstacles" in its day-to-day activities, according to a leading Catholic Church official in Russia. Addressing a recent meeting of the Polish Bishops, Father Antoni Hej, the Vicar General for Catholics in European Russia, said the number of officially registered parishes had risen from 42 to 64 in the past year and that at least 20 more awaited similar legal status. Moreover, he said, a total of 58 priests - mostly foreign and half of them members of orders - were currently working in the country, compared to 34 in May 1993.

"However, although the authorities give the impression of not refusing us anything, they are still ensuring, at the same time, that our activities face maximum difficulties, such as when we request restitution of our properties", Father Hej explained. He noted that before the 1917 Bolshevik revolution there had been 150 Catholic parishes in European Russia, as well as half a million Catholic believers. Although Russia's pre-revolution government had not shown Catholics 'great sympathy', the Catholic Church had run 72 schools in St. Petersburg alone, and 27 in Moscow, the Vicar General said. All but two Catholic churches had been closed under Soviet rule.

The Catholic Church's pastoral work has been complicated by the current decline of family bonds, as well as by continuing poor relations with Russia's predominant Orthodox Church, Father Hej said. "Orthodox leaders are still accusing us of proselytism, and of being illegally present in the canonical Orthodox territory which they consider Russia to be", he said. He added that recently a senior Russian Orthodox official publicly demanded that Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz publicly renounce any title to be Archbishop of Moscow. Archbishop Kondrusiewicz is the Moscow-based Apostolic Administrator for Catholics in European Russia.