LOCAL AUTHORITIES THREATEN CATHOLIC PARISH IN SOUTHERN RUSSIA

     MOSCOW (CWN/KNS) - Local authorities in Russia's Kabardino-Balkaria Republic, about 1100 miles south of Moscow, have ordered a Catholic parish in the town of Prokhladny to immediately apply for a brand-new registration -- even though the parish is already registered -- a move which Catholic sources in Moscow believe is a pretext for restriction of the parish's activities.

      Citing minor omissions in the parish's charter, the authorities have directed them to adopt a new one and to apply for a new registration. Such an application might be rejected under Russia's restrictive new law on church-state relations, leaving the parish with no legal basis to function. "This is the first step toward somehow making the work of the parish more difficult -- we're not sure just how," said Father Victor Bartsevich of the apostolic administration in Moscow. The parish in Prokhladny, like most Catholic parishes in Russia, was founded in the nineteenth century, closed by the Soviet regime, and re-opened only in the 1990s. Father Bartsevich said the parish's charter is "typical" for Catholic parishes in Russia, with no unusual features, and that they definitely will not yield to the pressure to write a new charter. He said that he is consulting the well-known Protestant legal scholars Vladimir Ryakhovsky and Anatoli Pchelintsev,adding: "We think we would win a court case."

      The December 5 letter from the Prokhladny procuracy to the Catholic parish states that the parish's charter fails to specify its territorial sphere of activities. It also demands that the charter be amended to forbid religious training of children without the consent of their parents, even dictating the specific text of such an amendment. The letter makes no concrete allegation that the parish has actually engaged in such activities.

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February 11, 1998 volume 9, no. 30          DAILY CATHOLIC

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