OXFORD, England (CNS) — Russia’s Catholic Church has condemned a Supreme Court decision to outlaw the Jehovah’s Witnesses and warned the move will increase fears of new restrictions on Catholic rights.
“Churches like ours don’t recognize the Jehovah’s Witnesses as Christian and don’t engage in dialogue with them, but we must distinguish theological issues from legal rights,” said Msgr. Igor Kovalevsky, secretary-general of the Moscow-based Russian bishops’ conference.
“The situation in Russia is complex and difficult now. There are very strong misgivings among Catholics that we, too, may be facing — if not persecution, then at least new acts of discrimination and limits on our freedom of belief,” he said.
An April 20 Supreme Court ruling branded Jehovah’s Witnesses an “extremist organization” and ordered the nationwide seizure of its property.
Msgr. Kovalevsky told Catholic News Service April 28 that the Catholic Church could not understand which activities could be deemed “extremist,” adding that all religious groups had a right to “exist and develop in the Russian Federation” if they did not violate the law.
“The law must apply fairly to everyone … the law may be hard, but it’s still the law. I think the government owes everyone a precise explanation why this group is being liquidated,” Msgr. Kovalevsky said.
Jehovah’s Witnesses were registered in Russia in 1991 and re-registered in 1999, but have faced regular arrests and police raids for handing out leaflets and door-to-door preaching. Their members have been assaulted and their property vandalized.
The Supreme Court ruling prescribed fines of up to nearly $10,700 and up to 10 years in jail for anyone engaging in Jehovah’s Witnesses activities.
Msgr. Kovalevsky said although there were no signs that the Catholic Church would be treated like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, “the government needs to reassure citizens freedom of conscience will be upheld.”
“The Jehovah’s Witnesses have the same right to defend dignity and faith and other citizens,” he said. “Although upholding human rights isn’t our main task, the Cat
Help keep Catholic media free, support CatholicPhilly.com
You may have noticed “pay walls” greeting you when you visit the websites of newspapers and magazines, both large and small. These mechanisms allow you to read a few articles for free before you’ve got to pay an annual fee if you want to see more.
You won’t find a pay wall on CatholicPhilly.com because we’re more than a news organization. We’re informing, inspiring and forming readers in the Catholic faith every day through the news, features and commentaries that we post on this site and share across social media.
It costs money to provide high-quality coverage of the local Catholic communities we primarily serve, while also distributing national and world news of interest to Catholics, plus the orthodox teachings of the Catholic faith.
Help us in this mission by making a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
or by credit card: