Bishop Jerzy Mazur of Irkutsk, Russia, returned to Warsaw, Poland, after his visa was canceled, to await further developments. Here he talks about his unexpected expulsion.
Q: Did you expect such a harsh decision?
Bishop Mazur: No, not at all. Itīs been a blow, given that despite difficulties that are easily imaginable, I have always avoided engaging in political questions. I have always been very prudent. Within the realm of my prerogatives, I did everything possible to help the poor, AIDS patients and the elderly.
And I have always acted without making distinctions of a confessional nature. For me, when a person is suffering, it makes no difference whether he is Catholic, Orthodox or Muslim.
Q: What is your relation with the Orthodox hierarchy?
Bishop Mazur: I have always tried to establish an open and sincere dialogue with the Orthodox in all aspects of daily life. I have even returned two churches to them. Their faithful are more numerous than ours, and they told me they needed them. So, in my opinion, our relations have consolidated in ways that are very constructive.
Q: Apparently, therefore, there were no reasons to cancel your visa.
Bishop Mazur: I would say not. As regards myself, in a spirit of dialogue I have even tried to respond to appeals of President Vladimir Putin to intensify aid in the social realm. Therefore, I donīt see any concrete reason that would induce the Moscow authorities to take such a decision. With all the efforts under way to consolidate dialogue, I would expect anything but such treatment.
Q: In your understanding, is there a relation between the decision that has affected you and the cancellation of Father Stefano Caprioīs visa?
Bishop Mazur: There is no doubt that both cases have the same motive. We are facing real violations of the constitutional rights of Russian Catholics, grave limitations of the freedom of conscience, as I forcefully informed Archbishop Kondrusiewicz, metropolitan of Moscow.
Q: How can one explain such a posture on the part of the Moscow authorities?
Bishop Mazur: It is another proof of the confusion that reigns in Russia. I donīt think that the violations of rights, including my case and Father Caprioīs, can be the result of President Putinīs strategy. Rather, he is trying to improve the image of the new Russia at the international level, especially at the European level.
However, today Russian society moves between obvious imbalances and residues of the past that make the panorama difficult to decipher.