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Catholics in European Russia welcome new leader

The new head of the Catholic Church in European Russia has taken office after a ceremony at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Moscow.

Bishop Paolo Pezzi, 47, of Italian origin, is a former head of the Catholic Seminary in St. Petersburg.

The service was conducted by Pezzi’s predecessor, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz.  He is being transferred by the Pope to his native Belarus after 16 years of service in Russia.

The diocese headed by Paolo Pezzi covers the western part of European Russia from Kaliningrad and St.Petersburg to Nizhny Novgorod.

Catholics make up around one per cent of Russia's population. And according to the Russian Justice Ministry, 220 Catholic parishes are registered in the country.