Russia    CATHOLIC LEADERS UNSURE WHAT PUTIN WILL DO FOR RELIGION
Catholic leaders in Russia say it is unclear what the administration of newly elected president Vladimir Putin will mean for religious minorities like the Roman Catholic Church.
   "As everyone stresses, Putin is an unknown quantity. No one knows what he is thinking or will do," said Jesuit Father Stanislaw Opiela, general secretary of the Russian bishops' conference.
   Putin, 47, was elected Russia's second president on Sunday with more than 52% of the vote.
   Of all Russia's top leaders to emerge since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Putin has been the most demonstrably Orthodox, talking publicly about his faith, attending services and speaking of the church's role in today's Russia.
   Under a 1997 religion law, Catholic organizations -- like those of all faiths -- are required to re-register with the Justice Ministry. In most cases, the process is cumbersome. In some cases, say those familiar with the church in Russia, the process is used by fickle or ignorant bureaucrats to discriminate against minority faiths.
   This year, two Catholic parishes have been denied registration on procedural grounds. The Jesuit order was also rejected, a decision it is appealing. Ultranationalist politicians and conservative elements within the Russian Orthodox Church are calling for new, tougher legislation to further limit the activities of non-Orthodox faiths.
   
CNS
29/3/00

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