Mexican Fr. Fernando Vera had the habit of calling things by their name, according to parishioners.
A Mexican-born Roman Catholic priest who was serving in Moscow was told to leave Russia, possibly because of remarks regarding the war in Ukraine.
Fr. Fernando Vera, a priest of the Personal Prelature of Opus Dei, had served in Russia for seven years. Recently, he was the rector of Sts. Peter and Paul, in the heart of the Russian capital. Parishioners there said he had “the habit of calling things by their name,” according to Asia News.
Fr. Kirill Gorbunov, Vicar General of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow, issued a statement April 21 saying that “on March 28 of this year, the Main Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation for Moscow sent a written notification to the Mexican citizen, priest Fernando Vera, that his residence permit in the Russian Federation had been canceled, in connection with which he was obliged to leave Russia within 15 days. The letter does not contain specific reasons for such a decision.”
In an email response to Aleteia, Fr. Gorbunov said that erroneous reports that Fr. Vera was given only 24-hour notice the day before Easter were “based on a single social media post by a parishioner.”
“The Archdiocese expresses its deep regret that Fr. Fernando, Rector of the Parish of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul in Moscow, was forced to leave our country,” the April 21 statement said. “Since the letter states that this decision can be appealed and does not exclude re-entry to the Russian Federation, we hope that this situation can be safely resolved and Fr. Fernando will be able to continue his ministry.”
Asked about reports that Fr. Vera had given a homily in which he mentioned the war in Ukraine, Fr. Gorbunov told Aleteia that he had “no information about what Fr. Fernando did or did not imply in his homily. The letter from the Ministry of the Interior contained no specific reasons for the decision.”
He pointed out that the Catholic bishops of Russia, in a joint statement on February 24, the day the invasion began, “expressed deep shock at the news of the armed confrontation between Russia and Ukraine, that ‘brings death and destruction and threatens the security of the entire world,’ and called all politicians on whom this decision depends to do everything resolutely to end this conflict.”
The director of the Opus Dei Information Office in Mexico, Carlos Ruíz, declined comment, telling Aleteia Español that “in consideration of the current circumstances,” Fr. Vera preferred not to expose the Catholic priests and missionaries who serve the 300 Catholic parishes that exist in the vast Russian territory.”
Fr. Vera, a native of Monterrey, Mexico, was an engineer before studying for the priesthood. He served as a priest in Mexico City and Guadalajara. Then, after the prelate of Opus Dei agreed to a request from the former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Moscow for Opus Dei to begin working there, Fr. Vera readily agreed to go.
With Fr. Vera gone, the current Archbishop of Moscow, Paolo Pezzi, substituted for him at Easter liturgies. As one might expect, has been extremely cautious in his language about the current geopolitical situation.
On March 25, Russian President Vladimir Putin promulgated a law that outlaws “false information” about “Russia’s actions abroad.” The law, which carries a prison term of up to 15 years, prohibits the “public dissemination of deliberately false information under the appearance of reliable information” about the “activities of Russian state agencies (and among them, mainly, the Army) outside Russian territory.”
“Even if all necessary precautions are taken, today it is difficult not to fall for the crime of ‘defamation of the authorities and the army,’ even if only ‘war’ is mentioned that is being waged in Ukraine,” said Asia News. At least 15,000 people have been arrested for protesting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Catholics, said Archbishop Pezzi, “hear the cries of pain of those who die, and we would like to help them be guardian angels and comforters, but we can only act together with Christ Crucified.”