"The four new dioceses do not change things for the Catholic Church in Russia; pastoral activity is already intense and does certainly not depend on the formal structure of our communities," the archbishop told the Fides news service.
The establishment of the Moscow archdiocese, and three other diocese within its metropolitan province, follows a normal course of development, the archbishop said. "Actually this comes after an unusually long time-- 11 years, after the creation of the apostolic administrations in April 1991," he added.
Archbishop Kondrusiewicz said that the diocesan designation was necessary because "it was time for the structures of the Catholic Church in Russia to be rendered more stable."
On February 12, in St Louis Church in Moscow the archbishop celebrated his first Mass as metropolitan of the new Russian province. It was a Mass for the 20th anniversary of the foundation of the Communion and Liberation fraternity, which also a branch in Moscow.
Harsh criticism of the Holy See's decision has been voiced by the Russian Orthodox Church. And the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement expressing "regret for the fact that such an important decision was taken without asking the opinion of the Russian counterpart." That statement caused some perplexity, since the papal nuncio in Moscow, Archbishop Giorgio Zur, communicated the decision through diplomatic channels as early as February 4 and the ministry raised no objections.
Commenting to Fides on the uproar in high Russian Orthodox circles, Archbishop Kondrusiewicz said that "ordinary people, including many Orthodox Christians, welcomed the decision." He observed: "If the patriarchate had not reacted in this exaggerated way, the news would not have produced this reaction in Russian society, but perhaps only consensus."