Religious Freedom Issues
Banned Russian Bishop Confident of Return to Diocese, 6/18/2002
Vatican - Bishop Jerzy Mazur of Irkutsk, who has been barred from his diocese by the Russian government during the past two months, visited Rome this week to meet with Pope John Paul II and officials of the Vatican Secretariat of State.
After that visit, Bishop Mazur told the Roman news agency I Media that he is confident he will eventually be allowed to return to his diocese in eastern Siberia. And he said that he has remained in contact with the faithful of that diocese, primarily by telephone and the internet.

Bishop Mazur, who is Polish by birth, learned on April 19 that he would not be able to return to his diocese after a visit to his native land. Despite vigorous and repeated protests by Vatican officials, the Russian government has never explained the decision.

The bishop said that his vicar general has kept him informed about developments in the Irkutsk diocese, and supervised the 46 priests and 48 religious working there. Bishop Mazur said that he "feels very close to them, despite the geographical distance."

During his visit to Rome, the bishop said that he drew hope especially from his meeting with the Holy Father. He added that he prayed regularly to the martyrs of Russia, and that he was always conscious of the faithful in Siberia and elsewhere who pray daily for his return to his diocese.