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Visa change hits priests in Russia

by
30 April 2008

by Ed Beavan

Men at the top: the President-elect of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, and his wife, Svetlana (second left and far left), with the President, Vladimir Putin, and his wife, Ludmilla, at an Easter service in Christ the Saviour Cathedral, Moscow, on Sunday PA

Men at the top: the President-elect of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, and his wife, Svetlana (second left and far left), with the President, Vladimir Putin,...

CHURCHES in Russia are being hit by changes to visa regulations, which have forced some foreign priests to commute from neighbouring countries in order to minister.

The changes to the visa regime, which came into force in November, permit foreigners on business or humanitarian visas, which include those for priests, to spend just 90 days out of 180 in Russia. As a result, the 200 Roman Catholic priests in Russia, 90 per cent of whom are foreign citizens, are obliged to spend long periods outside the country, or to commute from neighbouring countries, such as Poland or Georgia.

The problem also affects other Churches: one Lutheran cleric is reported to be planning to move to Tbilisi in Georgia to comply with the new rules.

Fr Igor Kovalevsky, secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Russia, told the Forum 18 news service that the situation was exacerbated by red tape. “The problem is the bureaucracy involved in getting temporary residency or a work permit instead.”

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