Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Anti-Catholicism Spreading in Moscow and Minsk

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 14 – Many Russians to this day believe that Aleksandr Nevsky was right to make an alliance with the Mongols because he was fighting against not only the Teutonic knights but also Roman Catholic missionaries who, they continue to believe, wanted to convert Russians from Orthodoxy and put them under the control of the pope.

            Not long ago, a Russian theologian of Ukrainian origin made a similar argument about why Moscow must adopt a more interventionist approach to Belarus by arguing that the Vatican is now working alongside the secular Western powers in Russia’s western neighbor and that this constitutes a dangerous threat to Russian national interests.

            But Oleg Trofimov, a Russian Orthodox theologian and specialist on religions, does not stop there: He urges Minsk and Moscow to adopt the same approach to Roman Catholicism that the Russian powers that be have taken with respect to Jehovah’s Witnesses and treat it as the “extremist” group he says it is (materik.ru/rubric/detail.php?ID=105413).

            There is now evidence that such attitudes are spreading both in the Russian population at a time when the Putin regime constantly talks about Western efforts to subvert Russia’s traditional culture and in the Belarusian regime of Alyaksandr Lukashenka who clearly sees Catholicism and its support for human rights and freedoms as a threat to himself.

            Today, January 14, a group of Orthodox activists picketed outside the Roman Catholic cathedral in Moscow, an action that not only had the approval of the Russian authorities but was covered by Kremlin media (katolik.life/rus/news/sotsium/item/5232-protiv-katolicheskoj-tserkvi-proveli-piket-v-moskve-obviniv-papu-rimskogo-v-razrushenii-rossii.html).

            Russian Catholics expressed their fears on social media that this is a clear sign that bad times are coming for them, a fear that rests as well on Moscow’s arrest and reported torture of two Catholic priests in occupied portions of Ukraine (acninternational.org/possible-torture-of-arrested-priests-in-ukraine/).

            The situation in neighboring Belarus also gives reason for concern. There, Minsk over the past year has arrested at least ten Roman Catholic priests, putting Belarus in second place among all the countries of the world, behind only Nicaragua, in terms of such detentions (acninternational.org/dozens-of-priests-arrested-in-2023-as-authoritarian-regimes-crack-down-on-church/).

            Lukashenka has been increasingly hostile to Roman Catholicism because its priests and bishops have been leaders of the opposition to his dictatorship and because that Church gaining converts from the more docile Russian Orthodox Church there (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/09/protests-may-lead-more-orthodox-in.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/08/roman-catholics-somewhat-braver-than.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/08/moscow-church-in-belarus-coming-apart.html).

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