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#3 - JRL 7061
Russian patriarch says Vatican has failed to strengthen position in country

MOSCOW. Feb 11 (Interfax) - All recent attempts by the Roman Catholic Church to strengthen its positions in Russia have been fruitless, said deputy chief of the Moscow Patriarchate's external relations department Father Vsevolod Chaplin.

A year ago, the Vatican decided to upgrade the status of their administrative structures in Russia to the level of dioceses in Moscow, Novosibirsk, Saratov, and Irkutsk.

"What is most surprising is that the establishment of dioceses in Russia not only failed to really benefit the Vatican but, on the contrary, this significantly harmed it," Father Vsevolod said in an interview published in the Tuesday issue of Trud.

"First, the number of Catholics has not considerably grown, and the importunate mission of the Roman Catholic Church in Russia in general has failed so far. Second, millions of Russians have understood that the Vatican took a clearly defiant and clearly mercenary step in relation to our country," he said.

"I believe wise people in the Vatican understand this, but, unfortunately, the opinions of those who support Catholic expansion at any cost have prevailed today, although, as the course of events has shown, it has proven counterproductive in a whole number of regions - be it Russia, China, or India," he said.

At the same time, "we have never severed certain contacts with the Vatican, and we are able to inform the pope about our position and our proposals," Father Vsevolod said.

Despite disagreements with the Vatican, "I do not think that clashes [between Catholics and the Orthodox] are possible," he said.

"Our people felt insulted, they experienced hard emotions: But note: nowhere - I would like to emphasize it - nowhere was violence committed against Catholics or were things holy for them profaned," he said.

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