Religious Freedom Issues
Religious Freedom in Russia, 12/19/2002
Vatican - The prestigious Jesuit magazine Civilta' Cattolica has delivered a highly negative assessment on the status of religious freedom in Russia.
Civilta' Cattolica-- a magazine that is regarded as an accurate indicator of Vatican opinions, since articles are cleared in advance by the Secretariat of State-- charges that Russia political leaders are cooperating with the Russian Orthodox hierarchy in an effort to
"decapitate" Catholic communities. The magazine refers to a "campaign of persecution" against the Catholic Church in Russia.

The magazine cites the "grave and repeated acts" by which the Russian government has expelled one Catholic bishop and several priest, leaving their people without "the natural and legitimate spiritual guides." Those acts, Civilta' Cattolica grimly comments, "recall to our memory the times of Communist persecution, which we thought were finally over."

Pointing out that a recent census shows only 16 percent of the Russian people as Orthodox believers, while 60 percent are atheists or agnostics, the Jesuit magazine ask the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church to reflect on their claims that Catholics are engaged in
"proselytism" among the Orthodox faithful. Catholic evangelists, Civilta' Cattolica points out, are making their inroads among Russians who are not affiliated with any church-- especially among young people and intellectuals, who feel no affinity for the Orthodox faith.

The Jesuit magazine remarks that in 2003, Russia will celebrate the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg, a city that Tsar Peter the Great hoped would be "a window open to Europe." The magazine says: "We have to ask ourselves whether that window will remain open to the West and its values-- good and bad-- among which especially we count the dignity of the person and human rights."