MOSCOW - Apr. 24, 2008 (Forum 18/ - Religious communities in Russia-- notably including the Catholic Church-- are being adversely affected by new visa requirements, the Forum 18 news service reports.

Visa rules introduced in October 2007 allow foreigners with a business or humanitarian visa-- a category which includes religious work-- to spend only 90 out of any 180 days in Russia. While not targeted at religious communities, the rules are having a harsh impact on many faiths that depend upon foreign clergy.

"Our priests are really, really suffering from this," one Russian Catholic told Forum 18. Over 90% of the Catholic priests serving in Russia are foreign citizens, and many are now forced to spend long periods abroad or even commute into Russia for Sunday Mass.