The Russian press has criticized the decision by its own government to cancel the visa of an Italian priest.
The newspaper Vremya Novosti said that the only reason to impede the Italian priestīs return to Russia from a visit home was "to slight the Pope."
Izvestia gave broad coverage to the statements of Catholic representatives in Russia, emphasizing that Father Stefano Caprio "was solely concerned with pastoral and didactic activities."
A priest of the Moscow Patriarchate criticized the anti-Catholic bias.
Father Georgij Cistjalkov, director of the Research Center on Religion and Religious Literature of the Russian National Library, and a member of the Academy of Sciences, told the Italian newspaper Avvenire: "We must maintain fraternal relations with Catholics in Russia because they represent a minority here that is respected and has moral authority."
In a note published Thursday, the Russian Foreign Ministry explained that the visa was denied the Italian priest because he was involved "in activities that were incompatible with the status of the Ministry of Worship," but the text does not specify the activities.
In Pskov, a city of some 200,000 inhabitants near the Estonian border, a Catholic parish priest, Father Krysztof Karolewsky had obtained permission to build a new church. Work began in March, but a month later, specifically on April 3, Valerij Polupanov, head of Communal Technical Services, told the priest that the work had to be suspended.
Just a few days before, Orthodox Bishop Evsejiv sent a letter of protest against the construction of the church, to President Vladimir Putin and regional governor Evgenij Mikhajlov.
The message was harsh, going so far as to request that "everything possible be done not to allow the triumph in the holy land of Pskov of the destroyers of our homeland and our people -- the Pope of Rome, and Catholicism, enemy of the Russian people."
Catholic Metropolitan Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz reacted to these words with great concern.
"It is a very dangerous precedent," he said. "If it is not carefully studied and evaluated, a wave of anti-Catholic manifestation may be unleashed throughout Russia, whose consequences are impossible to foresee."