Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 140

Patriarch Alexy II, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, has urged Russian president Boris Yeltsin to enact the controversial bill on religion approved by both houses of the Russian parliament earlier this month. The patriarch’s appeal came as Pope John Paul II wrote to President Yeltsin expressing concern that the law discriminates against many confessions, the Roman Catholic Church included. The Pope called on Yeltsin to reject the law which, he said, threatened the survival of the Catholic Church in Russia. Earlier this week, the U.S. Senate voted to cut aid to Russia if the bill becomes law.

Yeltsin has not yet signed the bill into law but, if he rejects it, his veto is quite likely to be overruled by parliament. This would lead to a standoff that would have to be resolved by the Constitutional Court. The bill has the strong support of the Duma’s dominant Communist faction, which is portraying it as a defense of Russia’s national security. Radical Communist deputy Viktor Ilyukhin said this week that the bill will protect Russia and the Orthodox Church from proselytizing by western confessions. He said the West is "using religion as a means to influence the minds of the Russian people and to control them." (Itar-Tass, UPI, Reuter, July 17)

Top Russian Officials Submit Income Declarations.