DAILY CATHOLIC     FRI-SAT-SUN     April 30 - May 2, 1999     vol. 10, no. 85

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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Government's Rejection of Order is "Absurd"

          ROME, APR 29 (ZENIT).- Father Boguslaw Steczek, adviser to the Slavic province of the Society of Jesus, fails to understand why the Jesuits have been denied official registration by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation. "We are in Russia not just to teach but also to learn. Why all these barriers?"

          "We have been in Russia since 1772 -- Father Steczek told the daily 'Avvenire' --. We returned in 1992, we registered officially and opened two communities, in Moscow and Novosibirsk. Then, in 1997, the new law on the liberty of worship was promulgated, imposing a new registration, which is what we are being denied."

          "Given the evidence, it is an absurd procedure. The Jesuits are an historical presence in Russia. They were present during the Soviet period, and Bishop Vert, the current apostolic administrator of Siberia, is a Jesuit. And it is even more absurd that the law of a State imposes obligations which not even the strictest canonical laws demand. They are asking for three communities and at least ten Russian religious in each community, in a country in which, up until recently, religion was illegal."

          The Jesuits' case highlights the problems the new law has created. Experts say it has been written to favor "traditional" Russian religions, that is, Orthodox, Moslem, Buddhist and Jewish, and is very hard on the others, including the Catholic and Protestant.

          Father Steczek pointed out the contradictions of the requirements of the Russian government, such as having ten religious members in each community.

          "It is one of the many discriminatory aspects of the 1997 law. This law is in open contradiction to the Constitution of the Russian Federation and the International Convention on Human Rights and, as such, should be revoked. For example, the Ministry of Justice requests the Jesuits to register as a foreign organization with headquarters in Rome. The problem is that if the Jesuits were to comply with this request, they would be unable to work in the religious sphere, which is precisely their concern. The Ministry also needs the Jesuits to demonstrate the Order is an integral part of the structure of the local Catholic Church. But the 1997 law itself says the State cannot meddle in the internal affairs of religious organizations or in their canonical ordering."

          The Jesuits have presented an appeal attesting to the fact the Order is part of the Catholic Church and, in particular, of the Apostolic Administration of European Russia. ZE99042903

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

April 30 - May 2, 1999       volume 10, no. 85


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