Archbishop Paolo Pezzi took office in Moscow on Saturday as head of the Catholic diocese of European Russia, Itar-tass reports.
The Italian-born former head of the Catholic seminary in St. Petersburg, Bishop Pezzi succeeds Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewic, who led the installation Mass. Pope Benedict XVI has reassigned Archbishop Kondrusiewic to his native Belarus. Russian-speaking Catholics were upset that the former archbishop was transferred without their consultation.
The newly installed Archbishop Pezzi was greeted by Russian Orthodox Church priests. The deputy head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s external relations department, archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, read a message of greetings from Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia.
Four Catholic dioceses were created in Russia by the Pope in 2004. Relations with the Russian Orthodox Church are sometimes strained by Orthodox accusations of Catholic proselytizing.
Archbishop Pezzi's diocese is centered in Moscow and extends across the west European part of Russia from Kalingrand and St. Petersburg to Nizhny Novgorod.
The Russian Justice Ministry reports that there are 220 Catholic parishes registered in Russia, not including Franciscan and Jesuit structures. Catholic services take place in 13 languages, and a Catholic Encyclopedia in Russian is in development.