Orthodox Journalist Has Praise for Catholic Church

Russian Tells of 1945 Plot to Force a Schism

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MOSCOW, JULY 10, 2001 (ZENIT.org-Fides).- A religious affairs adviser to then President Boris Yeltsin thinks fears of Catholic "proselytism" in Russia are unfounded.



This was just one observation of Anatoli Andreevich Krasilov, in an interview with the Italian newspaper Avvenire.

Krasilov, a practicing Russian Orthodox, has just published a book in Moscow with French Catholic theologian and publicist Jean-Yves Calvez, entitled "Church and Society: The Dialogue of Russian Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism According to Scholars."

In the 1960s, Krasilov was the first Soviet journalist accredited in the Vatican. He covered the Second Vatican Council as a corespondent for Tass. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, he was an adviser on religious affairs and later press secretary of President Yeltsin.

Krasilov also is director of the Religion and Society center of the European Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the center that published the book.

--Q: You met the post-conciliar Popes. What was your impression?

--Krasilov: I have met three: John XXIII, Paul VI and John Paul II. I have come to the profound conviction that our two Churches can and must cooperate [and] resolve, in the spirit of Christian love, all the problems that have been transmitted to us by history.

--Q: The Moscow Patriarchate maintains that the Vatican´s policy in Russia consists of encouraging "proselytism." Do you share these fears?

--Krasilov: No. I am convinced that, since [the time of] John XXIII until our days, the Vatican´s "Eastern policy" pursues two fundamental ends: to foster religious liberty, not only for Catholics, but for all believers in general; and to consolidate interreligious peace.

--Q: The apple of discord between Catholics and Orthodox is the question of the Greek-Catholics in Ukraine, seen by the Moscow Patriarchate as a sort of foreign body to the "Russian" tradition in the broad sense. What do you think of this?

--Krasilov: For me, the answer is very simple. Catholics, including Greek-Catholics are, on the contrary, the religious group that has exercised the most active resistance to the intent of the Soviet regime to establish total control over them.

--Q: How was the Greek-Catholic Church in Ukraine suppressed?

--Krasilov: There is a document of Dec. 7, 1945, in which Poljanski, head of the USSR Religious Affairs Council, points out to Foreign Minister Molotov the attempts to "establish a group of important Catholic and Greek-Catholic leaders who not only proclaim their readiness to collaborate with the Soviet regime, but are also prepared to break relations with the Vatican and create an independent Catholic Church in the Soviet Union."

--Q: What was the outcome of this?

--Krasilov: Shortly thereafter, in another report to Molotov, Poljanski wrote: "The formation of such a group is impossible at present, because no prelate of the Catholic Church in the Soviet Union is prepared to implement such a plan."

In 1946, Stalin decided on the suppression. The greater part of the close to 3,000 Greek-Catholic churches were given to the Moscow Patriarchate, and 230 were either closed or destroyed.