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Slovakia Catholics Fight Against Mormon's Influence

Roman Catholic bishops are fighting efforts by the Mormon church to earn official recognition as a religious group in Slovakia.
( [email protected] ) Sep 21, 2006 01:27 PM EDT

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) - Roman Catholic bishops are fighting efforts by the Mormon church to earn official recognition as a religious group in Slovakia.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is urging Slovaks "who care about religious liberty" to sign a petition that would allow the denomination to be officially recognized. Slovak law requires 20,000 signatures for a church to be registered.

But the Catholic bishops are telling parishioners that signing the document would "betray" Catholicism. The bishops said in a statement that Mormon doctrine "is not in line with the doctrine of the Catholic Church."

"We call on all Catholics ... not to sign this petition," the bishops said.

The Mormon church said Monday that it was not seeking to convert Catholics.

"We respect the decision of every citizen, and the petition was in no way meant to convert anybody to our faith," Mormon spokesman Petr Valnicek said. "Religious liberty is all we had in mind."

Slovakia, a central European country of 5.4 million, is predominantly Catholic.

The Mormon church, based in the U.S. state of Utah, has a worldwide membership of more than 12 million, according to its Web site. But there are only about 100 Mormons in Slovakia, and just under 2,000 in the neighboring Czech Republic.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes authentic Christianity vanished a century after Christ, and was restored only through founding Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith Jr. in 19th-century America.