CELEBRATING JOHN PAUL THE GREAT'S 80TH BIRTHDAY ISSUE|
May 18-21, 2000
volume 11, no. 95
THE CHURCH IN RUSSIA Series INTRODUCTION|
During this "month of Mary" and the focus on Fatima with the beatifications on May 13th of the Fatima Shepherd Children Jacinta and Francisco Marto by His Holiness Pope John Paul II, and with the debut of the DailyCATHOLIC now being published daily in Russian to reach all parts of the former Iron Curtain, we present a special series written by Father Robert J. Fox, director of the Fatima Family Apostolate and editor of the full color Immaculate Heart Messenger. We are delighted to work with Father Robert Fox in bringing you this special series on Our Lady's plans for the conversion of Russia. If anyone knows the temperature of the Faith in the former Soviet Union it is Fr. Fox. These articles first appeared in earlier issues of his full-color magazine Immaculate Heart Messenger which Fr. Fox edits and publishes. To order a subscription or to find out about other materials such as books and tapes or about the upcoming 18th Annual National Marian Congress to be held on the weekend of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary on June 9-11 at the Shrine in Alexandria, South Dakota, call the toll-free number: 800-721-MARY or 800-213-5541.
The Fatima program ran again through the Russian TV network and brought favorable reactions. There was only one widespread complaint: "This program of one hour and fifteen minutes was too short."
The Vatican's Moscow nuncio, who took up residence in March 1990, travels constantly, ascertaining Catholic needs.
In late November 1991 Pope John Paul hosted the President of the Republic of Russia, Boris Yeltsin. They discussed future direct ties between the Vatican and individual republics.
The conversion of Russia which our Lady of Fatima promised will not be sudden by American standards of technology that expects everything instantly. Vatican officials had to defend rebuilding Catholic life in the Soviet Union against Russian Orthodox accusations that it is trying to proselytize Orthodox Christians. For that reason, Russian Orthodox churchmen refused to send a delegate to the papally-convened special Synod of Bishops for Europe, saying it would "give the wrong impression of relations between the churches."
Pope John Paul II had invited major Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant leaders in Europe to send "fraternal delegates" to a synod to discuss the Church's role in European unification.
While the Orthodox refusal was a setback in Vatican efforts to present a united Christian approach to dealing with European problems in the post-communist era, optimism remained. The Vatican said it was pleased the Orthodox announcement "confirms the commitments of the Russian Orthodox Church to continue a fraternal ecumenical dialogue and affirms that the present decision should not be interpreted as a breaking of relations between the two churches."
It is interesting that whereas the above announcement in early October of the Orthodox in refusing to send a delegate to the Synod of European bishops, yet when the broadcast from Fatima to Russia was made on October 13, the next day European radio was reporting that the Russian Orthodox Church had expressed pleasure at the broadcast from Fatima and dialogue of October 13, 1991 and hoped such would continue, including dialogue with the Vatican.
The newly-appointed Archbishop of Moscow, Bishop Novosibirsk in Siberia and Karaganda in Kazakhstan are all relatively young. Only in 1968 was the first Catholic community registered in Siberia. Under Gorbachev, the region's 100,000 Catholics have reasserted their identity, yet the city of Novosibirsk has only one small prayer house.
Russia itself now has an estimated 600,000 Catholics. If the Church continues to grow, southern republics could reportedly soon have their own bishops, too. With newly independent republics asserting their sovereignty, it becomes a delicate issue for Catholics who are a minority even if growing.
The first Catholics were settled by Peter the Great (1672-1725). Later Czars often proved hostile. Conditions are still fragile. There are only 16 priests for 40 registered parishes in the territory for which Archbishop Kondrusiewicz is responsible.
Archbishop Kondrusiewicz said, "Today, we are rebuilding the Church completely. But we must remember that three generations have grown up here without religion, and that both Christians and non-Christians always come in many types." A Catholic theological academy, the first since 1918, was scheduled to open soon.
Monday: part five Ecumenical Peace Sought
May 18-21, 2000 |
volume 11, no. 95
THE CHURCH IN RUSSIA