Russian Catholicism on the rebound amidst opposition
Ten years after its rebirth in Russia, the Catholic Church is enjoying growth, though not without opposition.
"Ten years ago, in 1991, there were only 10 parishes, eight priests, four churches and two chapels in the whole of the Russian Federation," Catholic Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Moscow told Zenit.
"Now, 10 years later," he said, "there is a total of 220 parishes, some 215 priests and about 230 nuns. The major seminary in St. Petersburg was reopened in 1993 and, two years ago, the first Russian Catholic priests were ordained after 81 years."
On Thursday, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, Vatican secretary for relations with states, arrived there for the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the rebirth of Catholicism in Russia. He plans to meet with the Catholic community as well as representatives of the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
Among those attending the celebrations are leaders of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate, including a foreign-relations assistant of Metropolitan Archbishop Kirill. Representatives from other religions, Churches and Christian confessions will also attend.
Archbishop Kondrusiewicz said that about 15 priests are citizens of the Russian Federation, a fact he contended is "very important."
"Above all, there is great interest among youth, and these are positive signs," he said. "Moreover, even today, 40% of our parishes do not have an adequate place to celebrate Mass."
Given this rebirth, the archbishop noted, Orthodox sectors are accusing the Catholic Church of proselytism in the "canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church."
"This is an accusation we cannot accept, because the Catholic Church has existed in Russia since the 12th century, and has a very rich history," Archbishop Kondrusiewicz said.
"We recognise all the sacraments of the Orthodox Church," he added. "Therefore, there is no reason for us to engage in a policy of proselytism. In any event, today there is talk of these criticisms, but far less than 10 years ago, and this is already a perspective of the future."