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Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Russian Catholics celebrate ten years of freedom
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¬†The small Catholic church in Russia will celebrate their tenth anniversary of freedom on Good Friday. On 13 April 1991, the government gave permission to the church to practice after more than 70 years of state atheism. For 50 years religious practice was suppressed throughout the country. Following the October revolution of 1917, the Soviet regime confiscated all church property. In 1923, Stalin began a systematic campaign of church closures. Thousands of priests and laity were deported or killed. Under the controversial Law on Religion of 1997, Catholicism is still not included among the "traditional religious communities" of Russia, but it is gradually gaining strength with support from abroad. There are now four apostolic administrations in the country, which minister to around 1.3 million Catholics. A spokeswoman from the charity Aid to the Church in Need, said there was a great shortage of native Russian priests and trained lay workers and church buildings, but the picture was improving. She said: "When the apostolic administration in Novosibirsk, in Siberia, was established in 1999, there were just three priests for the entire region. Today there are 84 priests and 70 religious sisters, ministering to 100,000 Catholics." However, she added this was still far too few to minister properly to a huge area spread over 82 parishes and more than 120 outstations. Aid to the Church in Need has contributed nearly £4 million over the past five years for the construction of churches and parish centres, the training of seminarians and religious and the provision of transport for the pastoral ministry.
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