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“Conversion of Russia” Update:

The Catholic Church Struggles to be “Legal” in Russia

by Christopher A. Ferrara

Keston news service, which specializes in religious liberty issues, recently published a case study of the struggles of one Catholic parish to be “registered” in accordance with Russia’s 1997 law on “freedom of religion”. [Keston/CWNews.com, May 31, 01] The case study shows that the law on “freedom of religion” is coming to mean, in practice, freedom from Catholicism.

Keston reports that Catholics in the southern Russian city of Belgorod have been struggling to register as a parish for over two years. Without this registration, they cannot lay claim to a former Catholic church in the center of the city, which is now empty. As the Catholics try to obtain registration, “the region’s department of culture has meanwhile transferred the building to the local Orthodox diocese for use as a museum-cum-library.”

The head bureaucrat of religion in the Belgorod region, one Anatoli Yevdoshchenko, claims that the proposed Catholic parish “does not accord with Russian law.” Why? Because the parish charter does not state a “ruling organ” and the current use of a private apartment for worship has been “in defiance of complaints by neighbors about disturbance from the number of visiting parishioners.” So, the parish’s inability to obtain a church is cited as a reason why the parish cannot be registered to obtain a church. Bureaucrats just love circular arguments, don’t they?

Keston notes that “the official in charge of registration of religious organizations in Belgorod region, one Gyulnara Aliyeva, went to considerable length to stress that there were ‘real violations of the law’ in the Catholics’ registration application.” Such as? Well, the Catholics had “failed to include sufficient copies of certain documents and elsewhere submitted photocopies rather than originals.” Ah, that explains everything. No wonder the former Catholic church was turned over to the Orthodox. Not enough photocopies! “I don’t know why they relate to re-registration in this way,” huffed Aliyeva.

On the other hand, Aliyeva told Keston that she personally assisted “a parish of Old Believers of the Pomorye Concord” with their application, and that “the parish had since been registered.” Keston observes that “She was unable to say why Old Believers should benefit from such an approach while Catholics should not.”

Ladies and gentlemen, if this pathetic situation constitutes the conversion of Russia — if this is what Our Lady came down from Heaven to announce with the Miracle of the Sun — then Heaven has misled us. Of course, Heaven cannot mislead us. But we know who has, don’t we?