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Russia's conversion does not require leaving Orthodox faith: Catholic prelate May 14, 2007

Russia's leading Catholic prelate urged cooperation between the Catholic and Orthodox churches, and decried aggressive proselytism, in public remarks on May 14, the Interfax news service reports.

At a conference in Moscow marking the 90th anniversary of the Virgin Mary's appearances at Fatima, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz said that it is "completely wrong" to think that the Virgin's prediction about the conversion of Russia meant that all Russians would come into the Roman Church. Conversion, the archbishop said, "is a long and ongoing process, and we should all participate in it."

"Russia is above all an Orthodox country and it is the Russian Orthodox Church that is responsible in the first place for converting people," the Catholic prelate said.

Archbishop Kondrusiewicz reminded his listeners that the Catholic Church teaches "that proselytism is absolutely unacceptable and cannot constitute a strategy for the development of our structures either in Russia or in any other country in the world."

The Russian Orthodox Church has frequently complained that Catholics are engaged in "proselytism" in the traditionally Orthodox countries of eastern Europe, seeking to entice Orthodox believers to leave their churches and embrace the Catholic faith. Catholic spokesmen reply that their evangelization efforts are aimed at Russians who are not active in any church.

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