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Tuesday, February 12, 2002


VATICAN CITY, FEB 11, 2002 (VIS) - Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls today made the following declaration regarding the Holy See's elevation to the rank of diocese of the four apostolic administrations of the Russian Federation and the creation of a single ecclesiastical province:

"The measure just taken normalizes the position of the Catholic Church in Russia in accordance with canonical regulations. It is a standard administrative procedure, recommended by the need to improve pastoral assistance to the Catholics present in that vast region, as they themselves have insistently requested.

"Apostolic administrations are, by their nature, extraordinary and provisional structures, motivated by special circumstances and naturally destined to become dioceses. With today's decision, the Holy See has done nothing more than render the organization of Catholic communities in Russia equal to that in other parts of the world, as stipulated by Canon Law.

"Indeed, the elevation was motivated by the same pastoral concern that has led the Russian Orthodox Church to create dioceses and other organizational structures for the faithful who live outside her own traditional territory (in Europe for example, the Russian Orthodox Church has dioceses in Vienna, Berlin, Brussels etc.). Catholics in Russia are being acknowledged the same organization and pastoral care that Russian Orthodox enjoy in the West.

"The Catholic Church hopes, thanks also to this reorganization, to be able to improve dialogue and collaboration with the Russian Orthodox Church, for which her support has never been lacking, also through various Catholic organizations (for example, 'Kirche in Not' has donated more than 17 million dollars to the Russian Orthodox Church over the last ten years).

"The government of the Russian Federation has not raised any problems in this matter; indeed, as a member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), it signed the Vienna Document of which article 16, para. 4 reads: 'participating States will respect the right of religious communities to organize themselves according to their own hierarchical and institutional structures'."


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