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Russian Parliament to investigate Catholic "proselytism"

Ultranationalists have joined forces with the Russian Orthodox Church in criticising the Catholic Church for its "proselytism" in the country, with a parliamentary panel planning investigation.

Parliament's lower chamber, the Duma, decided on Friday that its Committee on Religious Associations and Organisations should study "the situation created by the active proselytism of the Catholic Church in traditionally Orthodox territories," Itar-Tass reported.

The decision came at the request of the Duma vice president, ultranationalist Vladimir Zirinovski.

Among other things, Zirinovski requested that entry visas not be issued to representatives of the Vatican and the four Catholic dioceses established in Russia. The Orthodox patriarchate strongly criticized the decision of John Paul II to set up the dioceses.

The Duma will ask the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about any possible offences against the freedom of conscience committed by the Catholic Church in former Soviet republics.