A Catholic bishop has been banned from Russia, Keston news service reported on Saturday. The action, coming soon after the refusal to renew the visa of a Catholic priest serving near Moscow, could signal a Russian government crackdown on the Catholic Church, the agency said. Tensions around the Catholic Church in Russia have increased since the creation of four new Catholic dioceses earlier this year. The Russian Orthodox Church opposed the creation of dioceses, charging that the Catholic Church is a foreign influence interfering in the "canonical territory" of the Russian Orthodox Church. On Friday April 19, the Catholic Bishop of Saint Joseph's diocese in Irkutsk (eastern Siberia), Polish-born Jerzy Mazur, was returning from Warsaw to Moscow to resume his episcopal duties in Siberia. At about 3 pm, border police at Moscow's Sheremietovo Two airport took the bishop's passport and made him wait for an hour. As aide to the papal nuncio in Russia, Father Tomasz Grysa, was on hand to meet Bishop Mazur at the airport. When he asked the reason for the delay, he was told by a border police official that "Polish citizen Jerzy Mazur" was on a list of persons no longer allowed to enter Russian Federation territory. Bishop Mazur - whose visa had not expired - was forced to take a return flight to Warsaw. Earlier this month Fr Stefano Caprio, who is in charge of two parishes in towns near Moscow, has been banned from travelling to Russia. The immmigratuion authorities refused to issue him with new visa after he went to Italy to visit his parents. Last month, a Pentecostal pastor from Latvia was also refused entry to Russia.
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