Catholics plan two more Russian dioceses
Catholic officials in Russia say the Vatican is preparing to set up two more dioceses in the country, despite objections by the Orthodox Church over the establishment of four dioceses there in February.
Sources of The Tablet in Rome have confirmed a report in the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza quoting the former Jesuit superior in Russia, Fr Stanislaw Opiela SJ, who said the two new dioceses would be in St Petersburg and Vladivostok.
The news was met with "astonishment" by Catholic experts in the ecumenical field in Rome, one of whom said the scheme seemed "more of a wish" than a real possibility. But a missionary priest who works in Russia said construction of a new cathedral would soon begin in Khabarovsk, a city in the extreme east of Siberia.
He indicated that the city would become the new see of the old diocese of Vladivostok, established in the 1920s before being suppressed by the Communists in the 1940s.
Another source said the second new Catholic diocese was to be in or near St Petersburg. Both officials said that with the huge distances involved the new structures would enable bishops to reach their priests and parishes more easily. The diocese of the Transfiguration in Novosibirsk, Siberia, covers 10 million square miles, more than the entire United States.
Ecumenical experts have questioned the wisdom of the plan, saying that it could make life more difficult for the 300 Catholic priests in Russia. Missionaries in some areas have had to endure harassment by authorities, sometimes over legal technicalities, and foreigners in general are required to have their visas updated every three months.
The bullying of Russia's Catholics (The Tablet 4/5/02)
7 May 2002