MOSCOW, Mar. 5, 01 (CWNews.com/Keston) - A Polish Jesuit
priest who for most of the past decade has played a crucial
role in rebuilding Catholic institutions in Russia was
refused a Russian entry visa on February 27 for the third
time in a row.
Father Stanislaw Opiela, the secretary of the Catholic
Bishops' Conference of Russia and the rector of the St.
Thomas Aquinas College of Catholic Theology in Moscow, has
now been unable to return to his duties for more than six
months. Russian Foreign Ministry officials have so far
refused to explain to Catholic leaders why he has been
repeatedly refused a visa. An official at the foreign
ministry's department of consular service likewise declined
to comment on Father Opiela's visa refusals.
Father Jerzy Karpinski, the current provincial of the
Society of Jesus in Russia, said the third successive
refusal was issued without explanation by the foreign
ministry. The first time, Father Opiela was invited by the
Russian section of the international Catholic charity
Caritas. The second time, he was invited by the Apostolic
Administration for European Russia as secretary of the
bishops' conference. On February 6, the Aquinas College
invited Father Opiela to teach at the college.
"We are in a critical situation," said Father Karpinski.
"He is the only one who can teach some Christian
disciplines. Furthermore Father Stanislaw remains the
secretary of the bishops' conference and rector of [the
college]. I am having to carry out his duties for the
Father Bogdan Sewerynik, vicar general of the Apostolic
Administration for Latin-rite Catholics in European Russia,
said he was perplexed as this was the first such case
involving a Catholic priest in Russia. "It's difficult to
say what the reason is," he said. "Maybe it's connected
with the registration of the Jesuit order. The consular
service of the Foreign Ministry refuses to tell us the
grounds for refusal." He confirmed that Father Opiela
remains secretary of the bishops' conference, adding
optimistically: "We believe Father Stanislaw will be able
to return to Russia."
The Ministry of Justice three times refused to reregister
the Jesuits under Russia's controversial 1997 religion law,
but Father Opiela insisted on the registration of the order
in accordance with its own canonical rules and finally won
this right through the Constitutional Court.
Meanwhile in Hanoi, a Catholic priest was
detained last week by Vietnam's Communist government for
actions which the government claims were part of a plot to
The state-run Hanoi Moi newspaper said Father Nguyen Van Ly
was one of many anti-Communists becoming more active in
advance of a major meeting of the Communist Party. "Ly's
tricks were part of the plot to undermine the regime, to
cause political instability," it said. "(It is) a wicked
plot in a chain in the peaceful evolution movements by
hostile forces against socialism."
Father Ly, 54, was put under "administrative detention" in
the central province of Thua Thien Hue last week and
branded a traitor in state newspapers after he urged the US
Congress not to ratify an historic bilateral trade pact
because of rights abuses.
The trade pact was signed last July and will give Vietnam
access to US markets, but it has still to be approved by
the US Congress and Vietnam's National Assembly. The pact
is vital to Vietnam's plans to boost exports and attract