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Saturday, 1 January 2011

Church restitution: Orthodox send threatening response to Mgr. Pezzi

Asia News reports that the Catholic archbishop in Moscow has criticized the handing of a former Catholic church to the Orthodox diocese of Kaliningrad. The response of the Orthodox is that his statements could undermine the Catholic-Orthodox relationship.

The Orthodox Diocese of Kaliningrad responds to the Archbishop of the diocese of the Mother of God in Moscow, Mgr. Paolo Pezzi, who had objected to the bill for the restitution of religious property nationalized by the state. According to the draft, which could be approved by November, the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Kaliningrad would be given the Catholic church of the Holy Family.
Denouncing the law as unjust for having been drawn up without consulting the religious organizations other than the Patriarchate of Moscow, Mgr. Pezzi had noted that for more than 20 years the Catholic community of Kaliningrad has been calling on the authorities to return confiscated property, without being heard.
"It seems very strange that Archbishop Pezzi should publicly accuse the Orthodox faithful of unreliability, without trying to negotiate and discuss the situation," said the diocese of Kaliningrad in a statement. "Such statements can actually harm cooperation and relations between our churches - and perhaps not only in the region".
Archbishop Pezzi had also drawn attention to historical facts: Kaliningrad only became part of the Soviet Union after the Second World War and it is hard to find Orthodox churches in its territory before that time. There were only Lutheran and Catholic.
"This emphasis," continues the note from the Orthodox diocese, "surprises us. We must remember that the ethnic and religious composition of the region has changed greatly over the past 60 years. Today most of the population is considered orthodox and the service of the diocese is based on this reality." For this reason the Orthodox claim new buildings for worship.
Finally, the statement reminded Msgr. Pezzi of a saying that has threatening undertones: "People in glass houses should not throw stones." "The Kaliningrad region is a special area for Russia," concludes the statement. "Its uniqueness should force us, representatives of different religions, to be a model of peace and coexistence for which the Russian Orthodox Church is ready."
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