Beliefnet
MOSCOW, Aug. 15 (AP)--The Russian Orthodox Church criticized the Roman Catholic Church on Tuesday for sending missionaries to Russia, claiming they used promises of material wealth to tempt potential converts, a news report said.

The Council of Bishops, the church's highest ruling body, said non-Orthodox churches recruited believers from traditionally Orthodox areas using "destructive missionary activity," the Interfax news agency quoted a church statement as saying.

The criticism of Catholic proselytizing was included in a resolution on Orthodox relations with other faiths. Orthodox leaders frequently have criticized other churches for their missionary work in Russia.

The document said Catholic and other foreign missionaries recruit in Russia "with the use of material wealth." It didn't elaborate on the accusation.

A Roman Catholic Church spokesman in Russia said Tuesday the church disagrees with the Orthodox contention and denies recruiting with promises of material well-being.

"It is not true that our attendance is increased at the expense of the Orthodox Church," the priest, known only as Father Bagdan, told The Associated Press.

"There are a few cases when people come to Catholicism from Orthodoxy, but it is very rare, and you have to respect the decision of the individual person."

The resolution said the Russian Orthodox Church respects freedom of worship for foreign churches in Russia, but only among "those groups which traditionally belong to them."

Russia has many religious minorities, including Catholics and other Christian faiths, but only a few are characterized as traditional under a 1997 Russian law on religious activity.

The Catholic Church rejects the argument that ethnic Russians have a "traditional" religion. "If a person is not baptized, why should we consider his national background?" Bagdan asked.

The Vatican had no comment.

The resolution Tuesday called for forming ties between individual Orthodox and Catholic congregations, rather than among church leaders in Moscow and Rome, according to Interfax.

The Orthodox and Catholic churches split in 1054 in the Great Schism. Current talks between Orthodox and Catholic officials have focused on resolving a dispute over churches in Western Ukraine that profess loyalty to the pope but practice an Orthodox liturgy. That dispute dates to the 16th century.

The Council of Bishops opened Sunday in Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral and was to consider key church business for the new millennium throughout the week.

In a historic decision, the council Monday canonized Russia's last tsar, Nicholas II, and six members of his family as martyrs for their death by a communist firing squad in 1918.

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