Archd., 1; dioc., 5 (1 for European Russia, 4 for Siberia); ap. ex., 1; abp. 2; bp., 4; parish, 300; priests, 290 (115 dioc., 175 rel.); p.d., 9; sem., 94; bros., 17; srs., 307; bap., 1,603; Caths., 804,000 (.05%); tot. pop., 144,440,000.
Federation in Europe and Asia; capital, Moscow. The Orthodox Church had been predominant in Russian history. It developed from the Byzantine Church before 1064. Some of its members subsequently established communion with Rome as the result of reunion movements, but most remained Orthodox. The government has always retained some kind of general or particular control on this Church.
From the beginning of the Communists government in 1917, all churches of whatever kind became the targets of official campaigns designed to negate their influences on society and/or to eliminated them entirely. An accurate assessment of the situation of the Catholic Church in Russia was difficult to make. Research by a Polish priests, reported in 1998, documented the arrest, trials and fabricated confessions of priests in the 1920s and 1930s. A team of research specialists made public by the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1964 said: "The fate of the Catholic Church in the USSR and countries occupied by the Russians from 1917 to 1959 shows the following:(a) the number killed: 55 bishops; 12,800 priests and monks; 2.5 million Catholic believers;(b) imprisoned or deported: 199 bishops; 32,000 priests and 10 million believers;(c) 15,700 priests were forced to abandon their priesthood and accept other jobs; and (d) a large number of seminaries and religious committees were dissolved; Despite repression, Lithuania and Ukraine remained strongholds of Catholicism.
During his 1985-91 presidency, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev met twice with Pope John Paul II - meeting later credited with the return of religious freedom in the Soviet Union. In 1991, the pope established two Latin-rite apostolic administrations in the Russian Republic: one in Moscow and one based in Novosibirsk, Siberia.
Catholic communities in Europe and the United States have been instrumental in helping to rebuild the Church in Russia.. Under a 1997 religion law, every religious organization in Russia had to register on a national level, then re-register each parish by the end of 1999 to enjoy legal benefits such as owning property and publishing religious literature. The apostolic administrations registered with no problems, but after the Russian government rejected the Jesuits' registration application, they were forced to take the matter to the country's constitutional court, which ruled that they qualified.
The Vatican's upgrading of Russia's four apostolic administrations to dioceses in early 2002 provoked new tensions with the Orthodox, who accused the Catholic Church of trying to convert its members. Russian authorities refused to readmit five prominent Church leaders, including one bishop, after they left the country. The Vatican eventually appointed a new bishop for the vacant Russian diocese and transferred the expelled bishop.
(The above exert comes from Our Sunday Visitor's 2004 Catholic Almanac and is used on this web site with the publisher's permission.)