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Patriarch calls on Vatican to stop proselytizing in Russia
Moscow, 3 October: Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksiy II has called on Pope John Paul II to stop the practice of proselytizing on the territory where Russian Orthodox Church believers live.
Addressing a pontifical congress, which opened in Moscow on Sunday [3 October], the patriarch said that several months ago a joint working group comprising representatives of the two Churches started to look into specific cases of Orthodox believers being converted to Catholicism, which were reported in a number of Russia's regions.
"We hope that reports about proselytization that have come in from various regions will prompt the Vatican leadership to take real steps to help alleviate concerns of our believers," Aleksiy II said.
Over the past few years, relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church have been characterized by "certain tensions caused by a number of unfriendly moves on the part of the Vatican", he said.
Aleksiy II said he was referring to the Vatican's creation of four Catholic dioceses in Russia, two in Kazakhstan and two in Ukraine's traditionally Orthodox regions.
"In a number of territories, the population of which has always followed the Orthodox Church, a new Catholic province has been established. From the point of view of our canonical law, it effectively means creating a parallel local church," he said.
Aleksiy II dismissed as "Jesuit casuistry" attempts on the part of the Catholic Church to portray what is happening as quite a normal process. In particular, the patriarch said he was perplexed by Russian Catholic Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz's new title as head of the archdiocese of the Mother of God with its centre in Moscow.
"Once again, the Russian Orthodox Church was told of these decisions after they had been made, whereas such issues require preliminary discussions, particularly at a time when emotions are running high," he said.
Aleksiy II said he believed that "there was no need to raise the status of existing Catholic Church organizations to meet the needs of the not-so-large Catholic population in Russia and the CIS".
At the same time, the patriarch welcomed the fact that the Catholic Church had handed over the icon of the Kazan Mother of God to the Russian Orthodox Church.
"There are people in the Catholic Church who are committed to a constructive dialogue," Aleksiy II said, calling on the Catholic Church "to change relations with our [Orthodox] Church for the better, not only in word but also in deed".