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Russia denies entry to leading Catholic official
    A Polish Jesuit priest who for most of the past decade has played a crucial role in rebuilding Catholic institutions in Russia was refused a Russian entry visa on 27 February for the third time in a row.
    Father Stanislaw Opiela, the secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Russia and the rector of the St Thomas Aquinas College of Catholic Theology in Moscow, has now been unable to return to his duties for more than six months.
    Russian Foreign Ministry officials have so far refused to explain to Catholic leaders why he has been repeatedly refused a visa.
    Contacted by Keston News Service on Friday, an official at the foreign ministry's department of consular service likewise declined to comment on Father Opiela's visa refusals.
    Provincial of the Jesuits in Russia, Fr Jerzy Karpinski, said: "We are in a critical situation. He is the only one who can teach some Christian disciplines. Furthermore Fr Stanislaw remains the secretary of the bishops' conference and rector of the St Thomas Aquinas College of Catholic Theology. I am having to carry out his duties for the moment."
    The Ministry of Justice three times refused to reregister the Jesuits under Russia's controversial 1997 religion law, but Father Opiela insisted on the registration of the order in accordance with its own canonical rules and finally won this right through the Constitutional Court (see KNS 18 September 2000). Father Opiela was provincial of the Russian Independent Region of the Society of Jesus for eight years.