09/25/2020, 11.59
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Russian Catholics opposed to the new law on religious freedom

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Under the changes clergy who study aborad will be subjected to a control to "exclude extremist ideas". The new law is also criticized by Buddhists, Muslims, Jews and Protestants, who go abroad for their studies. There is a fear of a resurgence of state control over religions, as in the early 1990s of the last century. The opposition of Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Russian Catholics are concerned about the changes to the law on freedom of conscience and religious associations which have been presented to the State Duma. Above all, the introduction of the obligation of attestation for clergy who have carried out theological studies abroad, which are absolutely not contemplated in Catholic institutions, to "exclude extremist ideas”.

On 22 September the vicar general of the Archdiocese of the Mother in Moscow, Father Kirill Gorbunov (in the photo) reflected the Catholic Churches position speaking with Ria Novosti agency.

The new draft law was proposed by the Parliamentary Committee for the Development of Civil Society and the Issues of Public and Religious Associations. Its approval at first reading was scheduled for 22 September, but was postponed to a later date. The required certification provides for priests and "staff of religious associations" to be required to retrain at Russian academic institutions.

This norm has aroused negative reactions not only from Catholics, but also from Russian Buddhists, who traditionally travel abroad to receive specific formation. The same can be said of leaders from most Muslim, Jewish and Protestant communities.

In the words of Father Kirill, “we agree that the priests who come from outside to carry out their ministry in Russia should be informed about the history, culture and religious traditions of Russia, and that they should not disseminate any kind of extremist idea in their preaching. However, as long as the common law is not violated, the surveillance of these factors is a duty of the religious associations themselves ”. In his opinion, the attempt by the state to regulate these processes "does not provide for effective solutions, rather it would lead to inextricable contradictions".

Gorbunov also stressed that "the formation system in the Catholic Church is strictly unified ... One can be sure that extremist ideas are absolutely banned in all Catholic cultural institutions".

Until now, similar interventions by the representatives of religious communities in the media have blocked  attempts towards a further resurgence of control measures on religions.

This process has been gaining ground in the last five years, after the approval in 2015/2016 of the so-called "Jarovoj law" against religious manifestations of extremism, which led to the banning of Jehovah's Witnesses, Scientology and many Pentecostal and Methodist communities.

Any approval of the new changes, which also provide for new classifications of the title of "member of the community", would oblige all religious associations to rewrite and re-register their statutes, giving the competent institutions the right to block them and interfere in life of believers. This ordeal has already seen several times since the late 1990s, putting a strain on the patience of the various communities. For this reason too, Pentecostals, Baptists and Methodists prefer not to officially register, and consequently are harassed by the authorities.

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