Vatican Assails "Ignoble" Maneuvers Against Church in Russia

False Accusations of Prostitution Leveled at Franciscans

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 14, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican criticized what it called "ignoble" maneuvers carried out in Moscow to discredit the Church, after Russian news reports linked a group of Catholic religious to prostitution.



"Worrying news has been received in the Vatican about an ignoble operation designed to discredit the Community of Franciscan Conventual Friars Minor of Moscow and, through them, the Catholic Church," Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls said in a press statement today.

"Unknown to them, the religious have seen how an apartment of their property -- rented to a private person who said it would be used for welfare work -- has been turned into a house for the exercise of prostitution," the statement revealed.

"Recently, a well-known newspaper of the capital, as well as the first and third television channel, have reported falsely constructed news, among which pictures are shown of persons dressed up in religious habits, portrayed in immoral poses, with the obvious purpose of harming the reputation of the Catholic community," the statement added.

The Vatican has "protested vigorously to the competent authorities," Navarro-Valls continued. "At the same time, the local superiors of the Franciscan Order of Conventual Friars Minor published a press statement rejecting all accusations and responding to the false information spread in Moscow."

"The Vatican joins with these legitimate protests and hopes that justice will follow its course, in keeping with a state of law," the statement concluded.

The Vatican's criticism follows the recent expulsions of a Catholic bishop and five priests.

Recently, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Russia, criticized demonstrations against Catholics organized by sectors of the Orthodox Church. He also assailed the prohibition on construction of new Catholic churches, and acts of vandalism against existing structures.

In a statement last month, Navarro-Valls spoke about an "authentic persecution" of Catholics in Russia.