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The Endless Word Game in Russia

by Christopher A. Ferrara

When I first heard the news that the Vatican was finally going to create dioceses in Russia — as opposed to the existing “apostolic administrations”, so named to avoid offending the Russian Orthodox — I thought to myself: there has to be a catch. There is no way that the geniuses who have masterminded the Vatican’s “strategy” of Ostpolitik are going to allow the Catholic Church simply to be the Catholic Church in Russia. That would run contrary to the very policy which has prevented the Pope from consecrating Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

And sure enough, there is a catch. On February 11, 2002 CWNews reported that while the Catholic Church will replace the four apostolic administrations with four dioceses — an archdiocese in Moscow and three dioceses in Saratov (in southern European Russia), Novosibirsk (in western Siberia), and Irkutsk (in eastern Siberia) — they will not exactly be dioceses.

No, according to CWN “the Moscow see will be named not the Archdiocese of Moscow, but the Archdiocese of the Mother of God at Moscow. The other dioceses are similarly named: the Diocese of St. Clement at Saratov, of the Transfiguration at Novosibirsk, and of St. Joseph at Irkutsk. Thus the Vatican has avoided a direct conflict with the Russian Orthodox Church regarding who is the ‘Archbishop of Moscow’, and perhaps lowered one potential obstacle to an eventual reunion of the two ecclesial bodies.”

The Archdiocese of the Mother of God at Moscow? How ridiculous. I smell the work of Vatican diplomats, who have given us yet another offensive compromise of the rights of the Catholic Church in Russia.

This little word game means, of course, that there will be no Catholic Archdiocese of Moscow, or any other Catholic diocese in Russia, properly speaking. There will merely be structures, named after saints, which have office space in Russia. Only the Orthodox will lay claim to being bishops of particular places, while the Catholic bishops will describe themselves as bishops at particular places. It is the difference between the President of the United States and the President at the United States. The latter, of course, is President of nothing.

Indeed, the very purpose of this semantic trickery is, as CWN points out, to avoid any suggestion that there is any Archbishop of Moscow but the Orthodox archbishop, or any bishop of St. Clement but the Orthodox bishop, and so forth.

So the ecumenical word game goes on, and the Catholic Church refuses to stake a rightful claim to her territory in Russia — territory claimed by Christ the King Himself, but stolen by Josef Stalin and held tightly by his latter-day Orthodox puppets, who now answer to Mr. Putin. And even this silly compromise will, according to CWN, bring a “loud negative reaction from the Moscow patriarchate.” Quavering in fear of the outburst, the Vatican is already protesting that “in the past decade Catholic groups such as Aid to the Church in Need have provided more than $17 million in direct aid to the Russian Orthodox Church.”

So this is where we stand after 18 years of being told that Russia has already been consecrated to the Immaculate Heart: the Vatican is afraid to create true dioceses in Russia, and defends even a timid move in that direction by protesting that, after all, Catholics are providing financial aid to the Orthodox Church to insure its survival. This absurd situation is certainly not the triumph of the Immaculate Heart prophesied by the Virgin of Fatima. It is, quite simply, a joke.