Tension eases between Church and state in Siberia

Two months after police raided a Jesuit centre in Novosibirsk, western Siberia, relations between state and the Catholic Church are relaxing, Bishop Joseph Werth said yesterday (19 July). The finance authorities, who were responsible for the incident, have confirmed in writing that their suspicions of illegal activities in the building were groundless, Bishop Werth told Aid to the Church in Need. "Now it has been clearly established the Church has nothing to hide," he said. Eleven police officers, some of them armed, stormed into the Inigo centre on 11 May without a valid search warrant. Residents of the house were held under arrest for several hours. Even the chapel was not spared an intrusion, Bishop Werth remarked. In his estimation, the climb-down by local officials was thanks to the numerous protest letters sent by members of the Church to the central authorities in Moscow. "Should it come to such an incident again," Bishop Werth, who is a Jesuit, stressed, "then we at least have some documentary evidence in our hands." Relations between the Moscow State authorities and the local Church have been placed on a new footing following the election of Putin, Bishop Werth said. However, he felt it was too early to speak of a major change in relations.

Share this story