Response of Russian Gov't and Church to the Vatican
- Response of the Russian Gov't and the Russian Orthodox Church to the
Vatican's "Diocese Creation" in Russia
Russian government responds to Vatican move
DECLARATION OF THE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS [MID] OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION
On the decision of John Paul II to establish Catholic dioceses in Russia
On 11 February the Vatican officially announced the decision of John Paul
II to establish dioceses in Russia in place of apostolic administrations
(the currently operating temporary structures of the Catholic church): the
archdiocese of the "Mother of God in Moscow," the diocese of the
"Transfiguration in Novosibirsk," the diocese of "Saint Clement in
Saratov," and the diocese of "Saint Joseph in Irkutsk." The Holy See also
made the decision to create for the Russian dioceses a single church
province which will be headed by Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz with the
rank of metropolitan. In the opinion of the leadership of the Roman
Catholic church, this was called for by the need "to bring its
organizational structure into line with the single standard of canonical
law of the Roman Catholic church."
The Russian side was informed of this decision by the Holy See through
diplomatic channels on 4 February. Without casting doubt on the right of
the Catholic church to organize itself in accordance with canonical
standards but taking into account that this question primarily affects
interchurch relations and could be the cause of their serious complication,
MID of Russia recommended to the Holy See to refrain at the present time
from transforming the apostolic administrations into dioceses and to
coordinate it with the Russian Orthodox church.
It expresses regret that such an important decision was made without the
necessary attention to the opinion of the Russian side.
The Russian foreign ministry affirms its interest in adjusting relations
between the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, which should be
arranged on the basis of equality of rights and not cause harm to the
interests of RPTs.
MID RF, 12 February 2002
Official response of patriarchate to Vatican move
DECLARATION OF PATRIARCH ALEXIS II OF MOSCOW AND ALL-RUS AND THE HOLY SYNOD
OF THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
Sluzhba kommunikatsii OVTsSMP, 12 February 2002
On 11 February of this year the Vatican announced the decision of Pope John
Paul II to elevate the status of the administrative structures of the Roman
Catholic church on Russian territory to the level of dioceses. From now on
in Vatican documents the territory of our country will be designated a
"church province," headed by a metropolitan.
The Russian Orthodox church is faced with a fait accompli, whereas in our
view such matters require preliminary discussion. We view the aforesaid
step as unfriendly and undermining the prospects for improvement of
relations between the two churches.
Historically on the territory of our country the Catholic church has
conducted the spiritual nurture of the flock traditionally belonging to it:
Poles, Lithuanians, Germans, and so forth. And thus there did not exist a
division of Russian territory into Catholic dioceses and the national
Catholic parishes were a part of the Mogilev and Tiraspol dioceses. The
creation of a "church province" or "metropolia" in essence signifies the
creation of a local Catholic church of Russia with its center in Moscow,
aspiring to have Russian people as its flock, who culturally, spiritually,
and historically have been the flock of the Russian Orthodox church.
The formation in Russia of such a church actually constitutes a challenge
thrown down to Orthodoxy which has been indigenous to the territory of the
country over the course of many centuries. Such a thing never has taken
place in the history of our country. Moreover, such a form of organization
of the Catholic church life is untypical even for Catholic countries, where
usually church provinces do not exist with dioceses actually administered
by a metropolitan.
It is necessary to point out that in conducting the nurture of its
believers in Catholic countries, the Russian Orthodox church has never
tried to create church institutions parallel to the Catholic ones. Our
dioceses are created for nurturing the Russian-speaking Orthodox diaspora,
that is, the flock of the Russian church that find themselves far from the
motherland, and not for conducting missionary activity among the local
population. If the Catholic church acted in Russia with such tact and with
such good will as we act in Catholic countries, then difficulties would not
arise in our relations.
The appeals by representatives of the Roman Catholic church to the idea
that they supposedly are restoring Catholic structures that existed in
Russia before the 1917 revolution seem to us absolutely incorrect. Almost
all of the Catholic dioceses existing in the Russian empire by the
beginning of the twentieth century were located on the territory of
present-day Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine, and Belorussia, and they did not
have a single center either in the capital of Russia or in any other city.
Since then the borders of our country as well as the ethnic and
confessional composition of its population has changed substantially. The
number of Catholic believers in contemporary Russia is incomparably less
than in the Russian empire at the beginning of the twentieth century.
We are convinced that for nurturing Catholics, who are not very numerous in
our country, there was no need to elevate the status of the already
existing Catholic church structures and certainly not to form a special
church district. Such actions by the Roman Catholic church, that are not
occasioned by real pastoral needs, disclose the missionary goals of the
changes that have been made. This is confirmed by numerous cases of
missionary activity by Catholic clergy among the Russian population. It is
this activity that we call proselytism and constantly point out as one of
the basic impediments to improvement of relations between our churches.
We especially regret that such a decision by the Vatican was made on the
eve of the next regular round of official conversations between our
churches, scheduled for the end of February. As a result a serious threat
has arisen to the fragile negotiation process which in its turn makes
extremely difficult the resolution of the problems and misunderstandings
that exist between us.
The responsibility before God and history for the sharp worsening of our
relations and for the interruption of the hopes that had been perceived for
their normalization lies on the leadership of the Roman Catholic church.
What the Vatican has done has struck a blow to the possibility of the
Catholic West and Orthodox East cooperating as two great civilizations for
the good of Europe and the world. For the sake of momentary advantages the
possibility of a joint Christian witness to divided humanity has again been
The question arises: will the Vatican continue, as it has constantly
asserted, to consider relations with the Orthodox church as relations of
dialogue and cooperation, or does it view Orthodoxy as an undesirable
competitor? If the latter takes place, then it is not possible to speak of
some kind of agreement between us.
However, we continue to remind the Vatican: today, when a restless world
awaits joint social actions by Orthodox and Catholics, we should not be
fighting but be working together. We have maintained good relations with
dioceses, parishes, and monasteries of the Catholic church, as well as
cooperation with humanitarian Catholic organizations and educational
institutions. It is these examples that permit us to hope that, despite any
difficulties connected with the mistaken course taken by the Vatican with
regard to the Russian Orthodox church, relations between Orthodox and
Catholics will develop and become an important factor in preserving
Christian values in the life of Europe and the world.
Turning to our flock, we call them to maintain their fidelity to Holy
Orthodoxy. We will calmly and peacefully, but firmly, respond to any
attempts to divide our people spiritually. "And so, stand firm, with your
loins girt by truth and with the breastplate of righteousness, and your
feet shod with readiness to
preach the gospel of peace" (Eph 6.14-15) (tr. by PDS, posted 12 February
"LATEST ACTION OF VATICAN FRAUGHT WITH SERIOUS DANGER FOR PROSPECTS OF
NORMALIZATION OF CURRENT ORTHODOX-CATHOLIC RELATIONS"
Sluzhba kommunikatsii OVTsSMP, 12 February 2002
Interview with the vice chairman of the Department of External Church
Relations of the Moscow patriarchate (OVTsSMP), Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin
with the Interfax information agency
--According to information coming out of the Vatican, the status of the
Catholic presence in Russia has been radically elevated by decision of the
Roman pope. The apostolic administrations that have been existing hitherto
have been transformed into dioceses, which henceforth will receive the
designation of Roman Catholic archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow,
the Roman Catholic diocese of the Transfiguration in Novosibirsk, the Roman
Catholic diocese of Clement in Saratov, and the Roman Catholic diocese of
St. Joseph in Irkutsk. Together they will henceforth constitute a church
province which will be headed by Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz in the capacity of a
metropolitan. How does the Russian Orthodox church evaluate this step of
--The actions taken radically change the status of the existing Catholic
presence in Russia: the creation of a "church province" headed by a
metropolitan on the basis of newly formed Catholic dioceses actually
signifies the formation of an unprecedented structure, a Catholic church of
Russia. Thus, new church structures of the Vatican turn out to be parallel
to similar structures of the Moscow patriarchate, duplicating the sees of
the ruling bishops of the Russian church in cities such as Moscow, Saratov,
Irkutsk, and Novosibirsk.
On its part, the Moscow patriarchate has never in Catholic countries
created its own structures for pastoral work with the local population.
Foreign parishes and dioceses of the Moscow patriarchate have been created
for nurture of the Russian-speaking Orthodox flock in diaspora. Thereby our
dioceses abroad have never had a missionary intent. This is well known in
Rome and thus it is worthy of great amazement that the Vatican has
reproached the Moscow patriarchate for starting to build an Orthodox church
in Rome, which is a part of the Russian embassy, while at the same time in
Russia it is opening dozens of Catholic churches.
--Can the initiatives of the Vatican be a product of concern for the
spiritual nurture of the recently growing flock of the Catholic church in
Such an argument cannot be accepted since for the improvement of the
pastoral nurture of Russian Catholics, who are not very numerous in our
country, there is no need for a qualitative change in the previously
existing structures of the Catholic church. Thus, in comparison with the
Russian empire of the beginning of the twentieth century, the number of
Catholic believers in contemporary Russia is immeasurably less and the
level of the official representation of the Catholic church in the country
is incomparably and disproportionately exaggerated. It is superfluous also
to note that of the twelve Catholic dioceses existing before the
revolution, ten were located on the territory of present-day Poland,
Lithuania, Ukraine, and Belorussia, since earlier the Roman Catholic church
conducted nurture of a flock traditionally belonging the Catholic
confession: Poles, Lithuanians and German Catholics.
--In this case, what are the true motives of this change? If it is a
regrouping of forces, what is the goal?
Insofar as the attempt of the Vatican to found in Russia new church
structures does not depend on real pastoral needs, one can suggest only
that there are missionary goals. This is confirmed by numerous cases of
active missionary work of the Catholic clergy among the Russian population
that has never traditionally belonged to the Roman Catholic church. It is
such activity that we view as proselytism and it is viewed by the Russian
Orthodox church as one of the basic impediments to an improvement of
relations between the Moscow patriarchate and the Vatican.
--Does all this signify a worsening now of relations between the official
Vatican and hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox church which even without
this were quite bad?
The latest Vatican action is fraught with serious danger for the prospects
of normalization of the relations that are currently strained. It is worth
noting also that this decision was announced on the eve of the next regular
round of official conversations between our churches that had been planned
for the end of February.
In addition, the Moscow patriarchate has maintained good and mutually
respectful relations with many dioceses, parishes, and charitable and
educational institutions of the Catholic church. This leaves the hope for
the possibility of overcoming the artificially created crisis in our
I suggest that the time has come for the Vatican to determine finally and
to formulate exhaustively whether it sees in historic Orthodoxy of our
country a competitor in a contest or whether it intends to follow along a
path of inter-Christian dialogue and cooperation. The former represents a
position that is unthinkable and impossible for equal and mutually
respectful relations between the churches. The latter was and remains the
object of concern and efforts of our church.
Upon this, the sincere and responsible response of the Vatican, depends not
only the future of the presence of the Roman Catholic church in Russian
society but also the place of Christianity in Europe and the world.
RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH VIEWS VATICAN DECISION ON RADICAL CHANGE IN STATUS
OF CATHOLIC PRESENCE IN RUSSIA AS EXTREMELY UNFRIENDLY AND DANGEROUS STEP
Interview with the director of the Communications Service of the Department
of External Church Relations of the Moscow patriarchate, Viktor Malukhin by
RIA Novosti news agency
Sluzhba kommunikatsii OVTsSMP, 13 February 2002
The decision of the Vatican to create in Russia permanent dioceses and the
formation of the so-called "church province" of the Catholic church is
viewed by the Russian Orthodox church as an extremely unfriendly step that
poses a serious danger for improvement of relations of the two church. This
was stated to RIA Novosti by the director of the Communications Service of
the Department for External Church Relations (OVTsS) of the Moscow
patriarchate, Viktor Malukhin. He said that the creation of a "church
province" is, in essence, the formation of a full-fledged Catholic church
He noted especially that this initiative by the Vatican was undertaken on
the eve of an earlier planned visit to Moscow by Cardinal Casper, who was
supposed to conduct conversations with the Moscow patriarchate. "Now a
threat to the normal course of the negotiating process has appeared," the
representative of OVTsS said.
He recalled that "before the revolution the Catholic church conducted
spiritual nurture of the flock traditionally belonging to it: Poles,
Lithuanians, and German Catholics." Of the twelve prerevolutionary dioceses
of the Catholic church, ten were located on territory of the current near
abroad, in Lithuania, Belorussia, and Ukraine.
Viktor Malukhin stressed that today, for certain historical reasons, the
number of believers in Russia is significantly less than before the
revolution and the level of the representation of the Vatican in Russia
henceforth will be immeasurably and disproportionately higher.
According to the director of the Communications Service of the Moscow
patriarchate, the Russian Orthodox church has never pursued missionary
goals in its relations with Catholics and, moreover, it has rejected the
practice of proselytism. RPTs spiritually nurtures the Russian-speaking
Orthodox diaspora abroad. "If the Vatican would follow this good example,"
Viktor Malukhin noted, "then a substantial part of today's problems that
cloud the relations of the two churches would disappear." (tr. by PDS,
posted 13 February 2002)
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