Russia's lower house rejects bid to restrict Russia's Roman Catholics

Posted: Friday, May 24, 2002

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia's lower house of parliament has rejected a draft appeal that asked President Vladimir Putin to have the Justice Ministry nullify the Roman Catholic Church's registration and abolish its dioceses.

Tensions have risen recently between Catholics and the dominant Russian Orthodox Church, which says the Vatican is poaching on its traditional territory.

Two foreign Catholic priests were denied entry to Russia in recent weeks.

Viktor Alksnis of the centrist Russian Regions faction initiated the draft appeal after the Vatican decided to upgrade its presence in Russia to regular dioceses, a move the Orthodox strongly protested.

His bill accused Catholicism of treating Russia as a ''spiritual wilderness'' despite its 1,000-year-old Christian heritage and said Catholic activity threatens Russia's ''territorial integrity.''

About two-thirds of Russia's 144 million people are Orthodox. Catholics number approximately 600,000.

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