Catholic proselytism among the Orthodox Population in Russia. Background information

8.07.2002 · English, Архив 2002  



1. Conception of proselytism

The problem of the Catholic proselytism in the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church is one of the most serious obstacles for improving relationships between the two Churches. Proselytism carried out by the Catholics among the traditionally Orthodox population in Russia and other countries of the Commonwealth of the Independent States devalues the Roman Catholic Church’s attitude to the Orthodox Church as her “sister Church” declared by Vatican II. The Vatican representatives and the Catholic hierarchy acting in Russia have often affirmed their “fraternal” feelings towards the Orthodox. The real situation, however, points to the contrary.

The problem of proselytism is aggravated by the fact that the Catholic side denies flatly its very existence, referring to its own interpretation of the term “proselytism” as enticement of people from one Christian community to another through “dishonest” means (for instance, bribery). At the same time, it alludes to the preaching of the gospel to “non-believers and non-baptized” people who come to Catholic churches exercising their freedom to choose a religion that suits them. The Catholic side would often voice this question: “Would it be better if these people remained atheists rather than become Catholics?”

Carrying out precisely preaching and mission in Russia, not at all caring only for their traditional flock (Poles, Lithuanians, Germans), the Catholic side often refers to the “missionary nature of the Church” and to the Lord’s commandment to preach the gospel: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt. 28:19). This is what Father Bernardo Antonini, a well-known figure in the Catholic Church in Russia, wrote in his article entitled “What I Think about Proselytism”. He proposes “to grope for a delicate line between preaching, mission and proselytism”, affirming the right of the Church “to preach wherever it is possible” (Svet Evangelia (The Gospel’s Light) newspaper of the Russian Catholics, (CE) No. 37, 2000). It is on the basis of these views that the Catholics reject the very notion of canonical territory.

This view, very popular among the Russian Catholic clergy, can raise a great deal of serious objections.

Firstly, Catholic clergy, who come mostly from abroad as we will see below, do not have to preach in some obscure “missionary territory”, nor to a heathen or non-religious population. They come to a country with a millennium-old Christian culture imbued with the Orthodox tradition. Therefore, the very fact of conducing Catholic mission here, among the local population who do not have any historical or cultural relation to the Catholic Church, and the presence of Catholic missionaries in the Russian land provokes the perfectly legitimate question: Do the Catholics believe the Orthodox Church to be a Church? If so, their activity is carried out in violation of the words of St. Paul: “I have strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation” (Rom. 15:20).

Secondly, it is has been evident for long time that the object of the Catholic mission in Russia and other CIS countries is the traditionally Orthodox population. These people were forcibly torn from their Orthodox roots in the decades of theomachist regime, but they cannot be called non-believers or atheists to a man. Many of them have found themselves at a crossroads, in a spiritual search, but as we can see from practice, most of them return to the faith of their fathers and find their spiritual path in Orthodoxy. It is unthinkable to deny the profound spiritual, cultural and historical bonds of our people with Orthodoxy. It is bewildering that the Catholics, who themselves belong to a Church in which the notion of tradition is one of the fundamental ones, should doubt the traditional nature of Orthodoxy for Russia. For many of them, Russia is a missionary field for “evangelization” of the local population. In other words, the attitude of the Roman Catholic Church to Russia little differ from that of various sectarians who seek to “Christianize” the post-Soviet space and to build up here a “religious market” in which religious organizations act as competitors struggling for the “customer”. The ensuing logic is clear: those who are larger and more powerful, who were the first to seize a particular “market sector” are in the right.

The Russian Orthodox Church is not afraid of competition with the Roman Catholic Church. We have no fears some ascribe to us: “The Orthodox fear that pastoral work may end in emptying their churches” (Interview by Archbishop T. Kondrusiewicz to Italian Avvenireё March 18, 2000’). Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, was even more harsh: “The Russian Orthodox Church feels her own pastoral and evangelical weakness and thus is afraid of the Catholic presence, which is for more effective on the pastoral level, though smaller numerically” (Italian Civilta catholicca, March 16, 2002).

What is this “effectiveness” of the Catholic pastorship expressed in concretely? – In a more elevated Christian life of their flock as compared to the Orthodox flock? On the contrary, one can state confidently enough that the successes of the Catholics in Russia have been indirectly conditioned by the influence of Orthodoxy on the life of the Russians. For, despite the severest ever persecution against the Church, it is under the influence of Orthodoxy, both in past and present, that our people have preserved interest in faith, reverence before the sacred and profound sensitivity to the preaching of Christ. It is this predisposition of our people, who were wearied with longing for faith during years of state atheism, rather than the effectiveness of the Catholic “pastoral level” in Russia, that accounts for the relative success of not only Catholic, but any preaching of Christ. Today, Western missionaries actually exploit that good soil fertilized by Orthodoxy which is the Russian soul remarkable for its credulity and openness to the Word of God and its special sensitivity to whatever concerns faith. Unfortunately, no such thing is happening in the West, the territory of the historical pastoral responsibility of the Roman Catholic Church. Nor effectiveness, nor “aggiornamento”, helps here. The West is growing ever more secular and atheistic. It should be noted for the sake of justice that our position meets with understanding and support among representatives of the Roman Catholic Church in many countries, expect for, alas! the Russian Catholics and the official Vatican.

The Russian Orthodox Church does not desire to be in relationships of rivalry and competition with Catholic Church. She believes this kind of relationships to be unfraternal and unchristian. We call the Catholic side to dialogue and cooperation, mutual respect and observance of each other’s interests. This should be expressed above all in recognizing that each side has certain traditional territories of pastoral responsibility belonging to it. Unfortunately, our call differs radically from the stand taken by Cardinal W. Kasper who states: “It has become clear that the debate on the principle of canonical territory and proselytism conceals arguments of basically ideological nature”, while the Russian Orthodox Church “defends not only a reality which is longer existent, but also the relations between the Church and the people which are problematic theologically” (Ibid.). He accuses the Russian Orthodox Church of an “ecclesiastical heresy”, consisting in “failure to recognize the Catholic Church’s missionary aspect for the sake of a conception of proselytism unduly extended in its meaning”. The cardinal’s article fails to give a single substantiation to these harsh statements. Nevertheless, we believe it necessary to set forth arguments refuting them.

The notion of canonical territory is not an invention of the Russian Church developed for some ideological reasons. It follows from the canonical tradition of the Early Undivided Church. There is an ancient rule in both the Eastern and Western Churches: “one city – one bishop”. This means that a territory entrusted to the care of one bishop cannot be ruled by another legitimate bishop. This principle has been observed to this day in both the Orthodox and the Catholic Church. An exception is a confessional diaspora, that is, the Orthodox who live in a territory where Catholic bishops have historically exercised their jurisdiction, and vice versa. The pastoral care of such a diaspora by its own bishops and clergy has never raised any objections from local bishops. A vivid example in Russia is the status of the Catholic Church before the 1917 Revolution, while in Western Europe the status of various jurisdictions of Local Orthodox Churches, including the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Unfortunately, this principle has not been always observed in the history of relations between East and West. The most vivid example is the era of crusades when a parallel Catholic hierarchy was established in the East, which considered mission to the local population, including conversion of the Orthodox to Catholicism, to be their duty. Vatican II, having described the Orthodox Church as “sister Church”, recognized the fact that the Orthodox Churches have a territory in which they carry out their salvific ministry, that is, they have what we describe today as canonical territory.

The Vatican should not have challenged the principle of canonical territory also because the Orthodox, in referring to it in their relations with the Catholic, thus continue to believe the Catholic ecclesiastical structures to be bound by the canonical norms of the Early Church shared by both Churches. It is this belief that accounts for such a negative reaction of the Russian Church to the establishment of four new Catholic dioceses in Russia, unlike her reaction to similar actions by various sectarian groups who are not associated in the Orthodox consciousness with the Church Tradition. The Orthodox perceive Rome’s actions as a recoil towards the ecclesiology of the crusades and an actual rejection of the legacy of Vatican II, hence, a rejection of the era of dialogue and cooperation.

Cardinal Kasper’s words about “the relations between the Church and the people which are problematic theologically” allegedly preached by the Russian Orthodox Church point to his lack of knowledge about Russian ecclesiastical, historical and cultural realities. Namely, the statehood-forming significance that Orthodoxy had for Russia. In Russian history, the Orthodox Church played the saving role for our people great many a time. One of the vivid examples is the so-called Time of Trouble in the early 17th century when Russia’s statehood was actually destroyed under the onset of Polish invaders. The Orthodox Church was the force that inspired the people for the struggle for independence and helped restore the Russian statehood. If the logic of Cardinal Kasper is to be followed, the historical link between Catholicism and Poland, for instance, should arouse in him no lesser concern “theologically”.

The accusations of “ecclesiastical heresy” made by the cardinal against the Russian Church arouse bewilderment and indignation. The notion of heresy presupposes a contradiction to Christian teaching as presented in the Holy Tradition of the Church. Hurling such accusations, one should at least take care to substantiate them. Unfortunately, there is no such thing in the above-mentioned article by the cardinal, which gives this text the tone of a political declaration.

Returning to the theme of “the freedom of choice” exercised by some Russians to opt for the Catholic faith, it should be mentioned that the problem of proselytism does not lie in the fact that someone favours Catholicism or becomes a Catholic – after all, it is the right of the individual – but in the fact that the Catholic mission pushes those who are hesitant towards this option. The question of proselytism belongs neither to secular jurisprudence not human rights area, but to inter-Christian inter-church ethics. The missionary activity of the Catholics in Russia is a glaring violation of this ethics. It is especially vividly manifested in the activity of Catholic monastic orders.

We will see below that many Catholic monastic orders acting in Russia point out mission even in their names: “Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Claretians), “Missionary Sisters of the Divine Love”, “Missionary Women of the Holy Family”, etc. Other orders, such as Verbists, were established as missionary from the outset. It is mission not the pastoral care of the traditional Catholic flock, that is the principal task of these monastic orders.

Apparently, other Catholic structures in Russia are also calculated with a “room for growth” in mind at the expense of converts to Catholicism. It is quite evident that in today’s Russian Federation, the Catholics are much fewer in number than they were in the Russian Empire before the 1917 Revolution. Meanwhile, if at that time there were 150 Catholic parishes in the country, there are over 200 today. If before the Revolution there were two Catholic dioceses, Mogolev and Tiraspol, nowadays, in what it is the Russian Federation today, they are four! Who are all these structures intended for? Apparently, for a reinforcement resulting from missionary activity, which is in the center of the whole Catholic work in Russia.

As for the real number of Catholic believers in today’s Russia, there is a discrepancy here between the figures given by various officials of the Roman Catholic Church. Vatican press-secretary J. Navarro-Valls in his statements gives the figure of 1,3 million. This figure is challenged by Archbishop T. Kondrusiewicz’s reference to 500 or 600 thousand Catholics in Russia. True, recently, in February 2002, he mentioned 65 thousand Catholics in Moscow alone (the press conference concerning the establishment of Catholic dioceses in Russia). It is utterly unclear where this figure was taken from. Even if the number of Catholics included all the Christian foreigners living in Moscow, they would hardly be that many. No more than totally 1 thousand people assemble for Christmas and Easter Russian-language services in the major Catholic churches in the capital city, the church of the Immaculate Conception and St. Louis’s. Even fewer people come for the masses served in other languages. It is impossible to deny this fact. No less eloquent are the plans of the Catholic Church to erect a 42-meter-high church in Pskov, that is, as high as a 130-storey building, considering that there are only some 100 Catholics in the Pskov region.

2. Search for Catholic “vocations” in Russia

One of the principal priorities for the RCC’s work in Russia is training local Catholic clergy, and probably clergy and the religious for Western Europe. Russian novices have already appeared in some monasteries in the West. At his meeting with Catholic bishops from the former Soviet Union on February 9, 2001, John Paul II emphasized the importance of forming the clergy out of the local population, who are capable of “understanding deeply the mentality of the great nation to which they belong”. Archbishop T. Kondrusiewicz, criticizing Russian laws as impeding the activity of visiting clergy, said, “The Catholic Church is extremely interested in having Russian, not foreign clergy, to take care of the Catholics in Russia and will do everything possible for it” (CE, No. 11, 2001). According to the Zenit Catholic news agency report of February 13, 2002, the Catholic bishop Jerzy Mazur of Eastern Siberia is drafting some “pastoral program” for the formation of the full-fledged local clergy.

Similar purposes are served by the Mary the Queen of the Apostles Higher Seminary. It was opened in 1992 in Moscow and moved to St. Petersburg in 1995. There were two seminaries in St. Petersburg and Saratov before the Revolution, but then the number of Russian Catholics at that time and now are incommensurable. In today’s Russia, in addition to the above-mentioned theological school in St. Petersburg, there are pre-seminaries in Astrakhan and Novosibirsk, and a St. Thomas Aquinas Theological College for laity in Moscow, which has branches in St. Petersburg, Saratov and Kaliningrad.

As far as the composition of the students in these institutions is concerned, there is “proselytism in action” here. Suffice it to look at the list of seminarians: “vocations” are really local, but there are almost no Polish or Lithuanian names. This is not at all concealed by the Catholic educators in Russia themselves. The article by E. Spiridonova entitled “The Latin Is Now Out of Fashion” published in CE (No. 14, 2001), says, “Every second family, which has given a student to the seminary, considers itself to be unbelieving”. Father Bernardo Antonini says practically the same about St. Thomas Aquinas College: “In our college of theology, philosophy and history, which opened on November 9, 1991, from 20 to 30 percent of the students enrolled annually are Orthodox. There are also Protestants… The Kaliningrad branch of the college was attended by 89 Orthodox and 28 Catholic students during the first year”.

The Russian Jesuit Center in Meudon, France, published a Catechism of the Catholic Church in Russian. During its presentation in the Vatican, Archbishop T. Kondrusiewicz said, “Actually, the theological and religious terminology of the Russian language has begun to form only in the last few years, especially thanks to the work of the College and Seminary… I believe that the Catechism will be useful not only for the Catholics, but also the Orthodox and other Christians both in Russia and other countries of the former USSR” (CE, No. 6, 1997). Could one imagine hearing such statements coming from a hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church in the West? Certainly, Archbishop Kondrusiewicz does not have be necessarily a connoisseur of the Russian theological tradition, but he should at least know about its existence.

This raises the question: where and when has the Russian Orthodox Church established its seminaries in the territory of traditionally Catholic countries? (St. Sergius Theological Institute in Paris emerged as an educational institution to meet the needs of Russian йmigrйs, not to awaken local “vocations”.

One of the major and most disturbing characteristics of the Catholic activity is its emphasis on work with children and teenagers, primarily in hospitals, secondary schools and orphanages. Under the pretext of care for orphans and homeless children, the Catholics (mainly representatives of women’s monastic orders) cultivate a new generation of Russian Catholics to replace themselves! Any “freedom of choice” whatsoever is out of question here. Catholic missionaries state openly that their aim is to influence adults through children. If Catholic nuns were really concerned for the fate of orphans, why not do it then together with the Russian Orthodox Church, supporting its efforts in this area?

Let us move to the examples of Catholic proselytic activities, the absence of this is repeatedly affirmed by Russian Catholic hierarchs. The most shocking of them is the example reported by the Novosibirsk diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church. In summer 1996, a Catholic orphanage was opened in Novosibirsk, intended for 50 children, and “enrollment” to it began in the autumn of the same year. The first three children were the Belyaikin brothers by name of Yevgeny, Dmitry and Vitaly (14, 11 and 8 years of age). Before that, they were in Orphanage No. 1 in Novosibirsk. The Orthodox Brotherhood of St. Alexander Nevsky took the spiritual care of the children in that orphanage. The brotherhood missionaries talked to the children, prepared them for church sacraments, took them to an Orthodox church and a Sunday school. The Belyaikin brothers were baptized in spring 1996; they began to go to church, make confession and take communion. Soon however Yevgeny, Vitaly and Dmitry were transferred from this orphanage to a Catholic asylum for some unknown reason. When the boys were brought there, their godparents, members of the Orthodox Brotherhood of St. Alexander Nevsky, began to visit them, to pray with them, to bring them religious books, consecrated bread and holy water. Almost immediately the Orthodox encountered a suspicious and malevolent attitude of the Catholic staff of the orphanage, which soon became apparently hostile. Alluding to the fact that the godparents were not related to the children legally, they began to obstruct their visits. The orphanage director, Italian priest by name of Ubaldo Orlandelli, threatened the children’s godfather over the telephone, while a guard of the orphanage promised to punish him physically if he came again. They also insulted the children’s godmother. They took the Orthodox books away from the children and started to impede in every possible way their spiritual nourishment by the Orthodox Church. After the orphanage was opened, the Catholics repeatedly stressed that this charity would not be engaged in religious education. Perhaps for this reason its Catholic staff decided “to disaccustom” the children from their Orthodox faith.

There was a case of a trip arranged by the Catholics for “unbelieving” children from the Smolensk region to visit Poland. They were taken there to a divine service in a Catholic church and “treated” to wafer without warning that it was the Catholic communion.

The Catholics have worked with children in Secondary School No. 84 in Volgograd. There are actually no Catholics there, but most of the children are Orthodox. This teaching has been not been carried out at all in contact with the local Orthodox bishop, but contrary to his position and with apparent tendency towards the Roman Catholic Church.

There is a Catholic youth center in Elista. In the same place, in Kalmykia, the Catholics have organized holidays for children of various confessions in the Berezka summer camp.

The Sisters of the Mother of God of the Immaculate Conception have arranged a youth theatre in Orenburg, which performs on the stage belonging to the local puppet theatre, with the same aim of converting young people to Catholicism.

At the Vershina village, Ust-Ordynsky Autonomous Okrug, with its ethnically and confessionally mixed population and absence of an Orthodox church, the local Catholic parish has conducted catechism and masses for preliminary school children. At the nearby settlement of Dunday, the Catholics have conducted lessons in religious studies for high school children (CE, No. 11, 2001). Incidentally, there is not a single Catholic among them. Could one imagine a Russian Orthodox priest teaching Catholic children in Italian secondary school in Italy?

The Catholic parish in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk has worked with orphanages (CE, No. 13, 2001) with their mostly Orthodox children.

The Raduga orphanage in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky “is taken care of” by the local Catholic Parish of St. Teresa. The Raduga director gave his consent to Bishop Mazur to visit the orphanage. During that visit, a Catholic nun by name of Fabiana Patshonsay, a Missionary Sister of the Holy Family, “told the children about the Annunciation and taught them to pray” (CE, No. 14, 2001). This sister also teaches at the Catechism Center in Irkutsk and Khabarovsk and writes textbooks. It was she who expressed the idea of influencing adults through children. It is unnecessary to emphasize again that this work is carried out with children from Orthodox families.

At the Listvyanka hamlet near Irkutsk, there is a John Paul II Catholic Spiritual Center called “Yedinenie” (unity). Working in it are Handmaidens of the Holy Spirit. This is what they say about their charges: “They are mostly little children who were baptized in the Orthodox Church or who are far from any confession at all” (CE, No. 36-37, 2001).

In Ulan-Ude, catechism is conducted among children and youth by Sisters of St. Dominique. They preach in the children’s sanatorium and the house for the elderly, conduct Holidays with God events and work with children from troubled families (CE, No. 38-39, 2001). Most of these children are Orthodox.

There is ample evidence that Catholic clergy, monastics and laity carry out their missionary work in Moscow among financially dependent children in orphanages which belong to the Order of Mother Teresa and the Jan Bosko Oratorium non-commercial charity for the social protection of youth and low-income people. In this just as in other cases, they deal basically with children baptized in the Orthodox Church, that is, full-fledged Orthodox church members.

3. The activity of monastic orders

As was already mentioned above, the most active “charitable” work has been carried out by representatives of Catholic monastic orders. It is their activity that falls under the definition of proselytism most of all. The number of Catholics in today’s Russia is not so great as to require the creation of so many monasteries. The whole Catholic monastic life in this country today is artificially spread through the efforts of foreign monks. At the same time, as we know from the history of the Church, monasticism has always been a result of the spiritual aspirations of believers themselves, that is, it would emerge from among them in a natural way. This is not the case, however, in today’s Russia. Catholic monastic communities have been organized by visiting foreigners in the hope to convert an increasing number of the Orthodox or “unbelieving” Russians.

The Verbists (Societas Verbi Divini – SVD – Society of the World of God). This is a missionary order founded in 1875 by Arnold Janssen in the Netherlands. Accordingly, the parishes they have in Tambov, Vologda, Blagoveschensk, Novosibirsk and Irkutsk are missionary. The Verbists teach at the Higher Catholic Seminary, which also points to the effort to train “local vocations”. In Moscow they work with children and youth.

The most outstanding Verbist in Russia is the Catholic Bishop Mazur of Eastern Siberia. He was born in 1953 in Poland and became a Verbist novice already in 1972. He graduated from a seminary in the same order. From 1980 to 1982 the future bishop studied missiology in the Gregorian University in Rome. Since May 18, 1999, he is the apostolic administrator of Eastern Siberia. By the Papal Decree of November 10, 2000, he was also appointed the apostolic administrator of the prefecture of Karafuto, the name of the Sakhalin Island during the Japanese occupation. This is a glaring disrespect for the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation.

Given the missionary training and aspiration of Bishop Mazur himself, the clergy in his jurisdiction have been engaged in a large-scale missionary activity in Eastern Siberia and the Far East. Most reports about Catholic proselytism keep coming from precisely these areas. Thus, in 2000, the Orthodox believers in Kamchatka were shocked by the provocative statements made by Rev. Jaroslaw Wiszniewski of Bishop Mazur’s staff on the local TV. He stated in particular that “it is not known what exactly Russia was baptized in – Orthodoxy or Catholicism”. The name of this Catholic priest is associated with the following incident of open proselytism in Kamchatka. In March 2000, the people of the Fourth Kilometer Miscrodistrict in Petropavlovsk-Kavchatsky appealed to Bishop Ignatius of Petropavlovsk and Kamchatka. They said in their letter that two women were visiting people in that district at their homes, doing so on behalf of the Catholic Church and Rev. Jaroslav Wiszniewski. They offered free Catholic books and put hand-written Catholic prayers, the Prayer of St. Francis in particular, into mailboxes.

During his trip to Poland in 2001, Bishop Mazur discussed the possibility for new priests and nuns to come to Eastern Siberia from Poland. The Archbishop of Bielystok, who is responsible for the Mission Commission of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, agreed to send two priests from his diocese to Eastern Siberia in 2001. An assistant to the Mother General of the Albertinian Sisters spoke for the possibility for sisters from her congregation to come to Siberia for missionary work. Some Barefooted Carmelite Sisters planned to come to Usolye in Siberia to arrange a sanctuary of St. Raphael Kalinowski in the same year 2001 (CE, No. 11, 2001).

A report came from the Irkutsk diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church that during a meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Russia, Bishop Mazur publicized the plans for his missionary work. He stated that the potential number of Catholics in the Irkutsk region amounted to 20% of the regional population and included people of Polish, German, Belorussian and Ukrainian nationalities (who, according to the 1989 census, comprise in total about 4% of the regional population) and members of their families. In addition, Bishop Mazur stated that he estimated that in 10 year’s time the number of Catholics in the Irkutsk Region would reach 200.000. It is perfectly clear at whose expense and through what means he was going to increase his flock.

Reports coming from the Irkutsk diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church indicate that recently the Catholic community leaders there have begun to underline the “universality” of Catholicism by all possible means, so that the local population might not regard it as the ethnic religion of the Polish and German descendants. To this end, it was recommended that the Catholic clergy and laity should avoid using such words as “ksendz”, “kostel”, etc. but use their Russian versions. For the same reason representatives of Catholic structures have began to distance themselves in public from the Ognivo Polish cultural society, though their joint actions actually continued.

The Dominicans (OP – Ordo Praedicatorum). In 2000, they had only one “house” in St. Petersburg. The one in Moscow was closed in 1998 for the lack of brethren. Only Rev. Alexander Chmielnicki stayed in the capital city.

The principal target of the missionary effort of the Dominicans acting in Russia is the Russian intelligentsia. This is the case in both Moscow and St. Petersburg. In the future, the Dominicans plan to take their “preaching” beyond their parish to many “academic institutions”. Brother Krzysztof Buyak, a member of the St. Petersburg community, writes about it openly in the French ecumenical Cretiennes en Marche newspaper (No. 66, 2000). The order’s community in St. Petersburg is led by an American by name of Frank Soothman through whom financial aid comes to the community from the USA (Ibid.).

The Dominican K. Buyak does not conceal either that the majority of their “community of catechumens” is made up of those “non-baptized”, as well as “those baptized in the Orthodox Church without preparation and those who need in a more in-depth Christian education”. To a great delight of the Dominicans, this community has grown quickly (Ibid.). Perhaps with the help of these people the Dominicans will begin implementing their plan to organize pre-noviciate for those who are to join the order from all over Russia. They hope that the only “house” of their vicariate in Russia will become their order’s largest center in Russia. Meanwhile, they expect assistance from their brethren in other provinces so that “the presence of the order in Russia may be developed”. And this aid is expected to come soon in the person of new monks from Poland (Ibid.).

The Jesuits (SJ – Societas Jesu). They control the work of St. Thomas Aquinas College. Since 2001, it has been directed by Octavio Vilches Landin, a Jesuit from Mexico. His predecessor, Stanislaw Opiela, the leader of the Russian Jesuits, was banished from Russia in 2000.

There were 71 students in the central branch of St. Thomas Aquinas College in the 2000-2001 academic year. Its branch in Novosibirsk is more modest. There are only 26 students studying in it. The general presence of the Jesuits in Novosibitsk, however, is considerable. Suffice it to say that the Catholic Bishop Joseph Werth of Western Siberia himself is a Jesuit. There is a Jesuit noviciate in Novosibirsk, where 8 young novices from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus are trained (other young Jesuits, the so-called “Scholastics” study in Jesuit centers abroad). In addition, there is an Inigo Jesuit religious center in the city. They also control the TV studio of the newly-established Catholic Diocese of Preobrazhensk. The Jesuits also seek to “nourish” Novosibirsk State University.

The Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (“the English Maidens”). The society observes the Jesuit constitution; its stated aim is to “defend and strengthen the faith”. Sisters from Slovakia have been operative in Tyumen, Tobolsk, Salekhard. They are engaged in “educating and teaching” children and youth (CE, No. 14, 2001).

The Carmelites of the Holy Resurrection. Bishop Joseph Werth consecrated a convent for the sisters of this order on April 28, 2001, in Novosibirsk (CE, No. 20, 2001).

The Congregation of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. The sisters of this congregation have their own convent in Novosibirsk and run an orphanage.

The Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists). They carry out their activities in Kemerovo, Orsk, Orenburg, working with youth. Monks from Poland organize youth forums under the slogan “Building Bridges”.

The Missionary Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. Four sisters of this order who came from Mexico operate in Saratov. They teach Spanish and Italian in the local branch of St. Thomas Aquinas College. They also work with children and youth.

The Missionary Sisters of the Holy Family (MSF – Missionariarum Sacrae Familiae). They are engaged in missionary activities among orphans in Eastern Siberia and the Far East.

The Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Claretians) (CMF – Сongregatio Missionariorum Filiorum Immaculati Cordis BMV). They operate in St. Petersburg, Murmansk, Krasnoyarsk and Aginsk.

The Orionist Sisters – the female branch of the Congregation of Don Calabria (PSDP – Congregatio Pauperum Servorum a Divina Providentia – Poor Servants of the Divine Providence). They are engaged in work with children from orphanages. They exercise “jurisdiction” over the rest home for editors, the former Rodnichok pioneers’ camp, near Moscow. They also work in Smolensk.

The Salesians (SDB – Salesiani di Don Bosco – Societas Sancti Francisci Salesii – The Don Bosco Salesians – The Society of St. Francisco Salesii). There is a Salesian Center for youth vocational training at Gatchina. The Salesian motto is “Where is SDB there is youth”. The order members are actively involved in missionary work in Yakutia.

The Sisters of Mother Theresa of Calcutta (CSMC – Сongregatio Sororum Missionarium Caritatis). The full name of their monastic congregation contains also the word “missionary”. They operate in Moscow and Perm. These sisters run an orphanage in Chechulinskaya Street in Moscow, to which they bring homeless children and convert them to Catholicism.

The Sisiters of St. Dominique. They operate in Tambov and Ulan-Ude. Their main aim is “catechization” of children and youth. They preach in children’s sanatoriums, homes for invalids and organize summer camps called Holidays with God for children from low-income families.

The Handmaidens of the Holy Spirit. In addition to the above-mentioned Edinenie Catholic center for children in the Irkutsk Region, the sisters patronize the children’s ward of the Regional Clinic in Irkutsk (CE, No. 36-37, 2001).

The Handmaidens of Jesus in the Eucharist. They are especially active in the town of Marks, Saratov Region.

The Schenstatt Secular Institute of the Sisters of Mary. The sisters believe that Russia stands in an urgent need of developing the Catholic apostolate among lay people. They are engaged in this “development” in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad.

The Franciscans. One of the most active branches of the Franciscan Order operating in Russia is OFMConv – Ordo Fratrum Minorum Conventualium – The Order of Friars Minor Conventual. On May 13, 2001, a general custodia of this order, i.e. an autonomous administrative unit uniting several monasteries with its own chapter accountable directly to the order’s general minister, was opened in a solemn ceremony in Moscow. The custodia includes the following Franciscan monasteries in Russia: St. Francis’ in Moscow, St. Anthony the Wonder-Worker’s in St. Petersburg, the Angelic Mother of God’s in Kaluga.

Present at the inauguration of the general custodia was the father general of the Order’s Warsaw Province, Gregory Bartosik. He read out a message to the general minister asking to establish a custodia, which reads in particular: “In 1993, at the invitation of His Eminence Archbishop Taddeuzs Kondrusiewicz, two Franciscan priests of the Province of the Mother of God the Immaculate of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual came to Moscow to join the cause of reviving Christianity in this land longing for God. Since that time the number of friars working in Russia has increased; new vocations have appeared among local youth; full-fledged monastic communities have emerged to make their own contribution to the life of the local Church. …In the end of 1993, the archbishop entrusted to the Franciscans the pastoral care of the parishes in Tula and Kaluga, which in a short time have turned into dynamic pastoral centers”. (CE, No. 21, 2001).

A Franciscan monastery and center were founded in 1994 in Moscow. On February 1, 1995, a postulantura, a novitiate course for training new monks began working there. On February 11, a Franciscan Publishing House was founded at the monastery to begin “cooperation with representatives of the Russian intelligentsia” (Ibid.). The Moscow Franciscan “brethren carry out pastoral work among youth, give spiritual guidance, visit the sick and prisoners…” (Ibid.)

In 1995, a monastery of St. Anthony the Wonder-Worker was founded in St. Petersburg. It is a center for monastic training of Franciscan seminarians in Russia and other countries of the former USSR.

Along with monastic orders, lay Catholic organizations of missionary orientation have been working in Russia. Among them are Fokolari, Communication and Liberation, and Neo-Catechumenate. The work of the latter has been the most outrageous of all. Representatives of Neo-Catechumenate openly preach a kind of “intercommunion”, inviting the Orthodox to take communion in Catholic churches. It is proselytism even according to the Catholic standard, which is incitement of people from one Church to another.

4. Conclusion

The above-mentioned examples reflect only a small part of the proselytic effort of the Catholics in Russia. The Orthodox watch with bewilderment and bitterness representatives of the Church which only recently called herself our “sister” joining the ranks of “new illuminators of Rus” along with sectarians.

An evidence that the Vatican intends to extend the Catholic mission in Russia is its recent decision to elevate the status of its church structures in Russia, apostolic administrations, to that of dioceses and to form them into a “church province” led by a “metropolitan”. If this development is to be assessed in terms of the Orthodox canonical tradition, it can be stated that Rome has declared the existence of a Russian Catholic Church understood as a church for the Russians whatever their cultural and ethnic roots may be. This step shows that Rome, acting one-sidedly and without any dialogue with the Orthodox Church, has fundamentally changed the nature of the Catholic presence in Russia. With the establishment of dioceses, the Catholic Church in Russia has ceased to be a pastoral structure for ethnic minorities linked with the Roman Catholic tradition and declared itself a church of a given place whose duty and responsibility is mission towards all the people living in Russia. This step of Rome has not only moved away the prospect for settling the problem of proselytism, but also created a system of competition, hence confrontation with the Orthodox Church in Christian witness so important for the entire Russian society. All this has certainly weakened the integrity and effectiveness of this witness and thus worked against the Christianization and inchurching of the people.

This is precisely the reason why the Vatican’s policy towards Russia is perceived by the majority of our fellow-citizens as capable of inflicting a serious damage on the spiritual life of the Russian people.

June 25, 2002