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THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH IN RUSSIA

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TITLE: THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH IN RUSSIA 1991-1996, THELATIN RITE: TOWARDS A "NATIVE" RUSSIAN CHURCH?AUTHOR: RALPH DELLA CAVA, Queens College, CUNYTHE NATIONAL COUNCILFOR SOVIET AND EAST EUROPEAN RESEARCHTITLE VIII PROGRAM1755 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.Washington, D.C. 20036PROJECT INFORMATION:1CONTRACTOR: Queens College, CUNYPRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: Ralph Della CavaCOUNCIL CONTRACT NUMBER: 81 0-02DATE: June 12, 1996COPYRIGHT INFORMATIONIndividual researchers retain the copyright on work products derived from research funded byCouncil Contract. The Council and the U.S. Government have the right to duplicate written reportsand other materials submitted under Council Contract and to distribute such copies within theCouncil and U.S. Government for their own use, and to draw upon such reports and materials fortheir own studies; but the Council and U.S. Government do not have the right to distribute, ormake such reports and materials available, outside the Council or U.S. Government without thewritten consent of the authors, except as may be required under the provisions of the Freedom ofInformation Act 5 U.S.C. 552, or other applicable law.1 The work leading to this report was supported in part by contract funds provided by the NationalCouncil for Soviet and East European Research, made available by the U. S. Department of State under TitleVIII (the Soviet-Eastern European Research and Training Act of 1983, as amended). The analysis andinterpretations contained in the report are those of the author(s).THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH IN RUSSIA, 1991-1996, THE LATIN RITE:TOWARDS A "NATIVE" RUSSIAN CHURCH?RALPH DELLA CAVAAbstractFive years have passed since the Roman Catholic Church first began toreestablish the Latin Rite throughout the Russian Federation. But the Church's futureis by no means certain.Numerically, membership is declining as emigration siphons off the bulk of itsonce large ethnic German constituency, while "Russification" and secularizationchallenge its presence among the descendants of other ethnic Catholics and youngpeople.If it is to flourish, must and can Roman Catholicism present itself as analternative to Russian Orthodox Christianity? That proposition — how best to"inculturate" itself among "native" Russians of Orthodox persuasion — is beingdiscussed informally in several Catholic quarters (even though official Catholic policyadamantly eschews "proselytism" in any form).For its part, the very suggestion of a Catholic missionary enterprise poses oneof the most volatile questions in current Catholic-Orthodox relations. Since the springof 1996, its intensity has sharpened as the Moscow Patriarchate has openly lobbied infavor of a more restrictive new law of religion, currently in preparation by a sub-commission of the Duma.In assessing the first five years of renewed Catholic life in Russia, the paper alsoexplores Orthodox and Catholic arguments — as they have emerged in the currentdebate over a new law - about the nature of religious liberty in Russian society.INTRODUCTIONIn April 1996, five years to the month after the Vatican set in motion new structures toadminister to the spiritual needs of post-Soviet Russia's less than half a million RomanCatholics,1 a clearer, if by no means fully developed, picture of that church has at last begunto emerge.2Current portraits tend to draw on vital statistics. Of course, without them it would beimpossible to get a sense of the institutional church. Its key features come wrapped in figures- about membership size, the number and make-up of ecclesiastical jurisdictions, the ethnicorigins of believers, formal relations with government authorities, the course of ecumenicaldialogue, and the status of clergy and vocations. But, for whatever reasons, even sympatheticobservers have focused only fleetingly on some of that community's more fundamental, oftencontradictory, dimensions that are likely to shape its destiny.At the risk of overstating them and perhaps even sparking controversy that some mightprefer to postpone. I believe three of these dimensions are already discernible. Moreover, theyspeak to real-life dilemmas and are likely to prevail for some time to come. If brought undercloser scrutiny and considered together, however, they should help us see with greateraccuracy the course of the Catholic church in Russia and something of the changing society inwhich it subsists.First of all, Russian Catholicism is today a church of multi-faceted minorities. Aminority in numbers, its members also descend mostly from non-Russian ethnic minorities.Moreover, while it is less frquently underscored in public, these constituencies make up acommunity speedily dimishing in size, at least over the short run. if current emigrationopportunities as well as tendencies towards "Russification" continue to prevail. Precisely whatshape the Church's future composition may take depends on other imponderables, but certainlyto some extent on current pastoral policies that are not devoid of controversy.Second, the Catholic community in Russia most resembles a classic "mission church" ofthe pre-war era, at least, in two specifically restricted senses.3 First with regard to manpower,second to material resources, it is — and will likely long remain -- almost entirely dependenton the largesse of Catholics abroad. This is understandable, laudatory and expected of a worldreligion that is at once local and universal and expressly committed to the "communion" of allbelievers. But, apparently, such dependency has already proven as much a liability as anadvantage — both among Catholics themselves and in their relationship to other confessions.Third and last, Catholicism's course is also being shaped — willy-nilly -- by the changingfortunes of the nation's millennial and numerically largest church, the Russian Orthodox, andby the ecclesiastical politics of its supreme authority, the Patriarchate of Moscow and AllRussia. While cooperation between the First and Third Rome reportedly continues to improvein loco, several issues of historic and immediate concern have of late shown signs of strain.Moreover, recent changes within the ranks of the Russian Orthodox Church have challengedthe good will of both communions and could potentially affect the status of the Catholic churchin Russia.In this paper, I shall discuss only the first of these dimensions, that which encompassesCatholicism's human composition and institutional structure, as well as the several


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