ROME — While the Russian government’s treatment of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny is “mainly a political question,” the mass arrests of protesters and the situation in Russia’s jails are a concern for the Catholic Church and all Christians, said the head of Moscow’s Mother of God Archdiocese.
Moscow-based Archbishop Paolo Pezzi said, “We ask that justice be given to the innocent; mercy to the guilty; intelligence, courage and wisdom to those who must judge; and, especially, humanity to those who must then enforce the punishment.”
In an interview April 29 with SIR, the news agency of the Italian bishops’ conference, Pezzi entrusted his prayer to the intercession of Friedrich Joseph Haass, a 19th-century German Catholic doctor who spent most of his life in Russia caring for the poor, especially prisoners, and advocating for improved conditions in the country’s jails.
Navalny was arrested Jan. 17 on his return from Germany, where he spent five months in the hospital after a near-fatal nerve agent attack. Mass protests of his jailing have taken place since then and an estimated 13,000 protesters have been arrested.
Asked specifically about Navalny’s case, Pezzi preferred to quote a Russian priest who said, “As a priest it is not important what a prisoner’s name is, what his last name is or the article under which he was condemned. But for me, the words of Christ who calls us to treat anyone in prison as if they were Christ himself have great importance.”