Пастырская деятельность римско-католических священников в законодательных актах Российской империи

Pastoral Activities of the Roman Catholic Clergy in the Legal Acts of the Russian Empire

  • Виктор BИЛОТАС Историчеcкий архив Католической Церкви Сибири
Keywords: Russian Empire, legal acts, Catholic clergy, pastoral care


The article analyses the legal acts of the Russian Empire throughout the period of its existence (1721–1917), published in the Complete Collection of Laws and in the Code of Laws on state regulation of pastoral activities of Roman Catholic priests. Retrospective evaluation of legal documents allows to determine some general tendencies of Russian laws on Catholic pastoral care: to allow, but only to selected priests; freely, but in certain places; not to allow to act among other Christians; to support partially, but strictly controlled.

The collections of legal acts published in Russia deal with the legal status of the Catholic Church. Based on them, it is possible to form a complete picture of the legal status of the Catholic Church in the times of the Russian Empire. Various documents of the highest status, putting them chronologically, reveal the characteristics of possible activity of Catholics (especially clergy).

Pastoral activities of the Roman Catholic clergy in the Russian Empire depended on the permits and prohibitions published in legislation. The legal status of Roman Catholic priests, the regulation of their activities changed over time in the Russian Empire. Since the times of Tsar Peter the Great, clergymen, other than monks, were allowed to live and serve in Catholic communities, although the legislation limited their number and their pastoral activities were controlled. In some cases, the authorities even tried to stop the activities of Catholic clergy (for example, in Smolensk province). But sometimes Catholics received material help from the state as well: for the construction of churches, salaries of clergy, as it was the case in Saratov’s province during the years of Catherine’s rule. In the controversy among Catholics of different nations, Catherine II defined the status of Catholics in legal acts as early as 1766. The most important determination of Catholic status was the Empress’ Provisions, signed in 1769.

In the brief period of Tsar Pavel’s I rule, there was a greater requirement for loyalty to the imperial government, but relations due to Jesuits became more lenient. During the years of later Emperors’ rule, we see opportunities to fulfil pastoral tasks in the territory of the large Russian Empire, as well as prohibitions and restrictions.

The legal documents of the Russian Empire period are an interesting and useful source for examining the possibilities of Catholic Church activities during the mentioned period.

History of Church