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clock Sep 11, 2006 4:56 pm US/Mountain

Slovakian Bishops Urge Rejection Of LDS Church

(AP) BRATISLAVA, Slovakia Catholic bishops urged their faithful against supporting the registration of a Mormon church in Slovakia, saying that would be a betrayal of the Catholic Church.

Earlier this month, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had asked all Slovaks �who care about religious liberty� to sign a petition supporting its bid to set up a church. Slovak law requires 20,000 signatures for a church to be legally registered.

Slovak bishops released a statement, however, saying the Mormon church�s doctrine was �not in line with the doctrine of the Catholic Church.�

�We call on all Catholics ... not to sign this petition and not to betray the Catholic church,� the bishops� statement said.

The Mormon church said Monday it was not looking for converts from Catholicism.

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

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

There are only about 100 Mormons in Slovakia, and nearly 2,000 in the neighboring Czech Republic.

The Mormon church, based in Salt Lake City, claims more than 12 million members worldwide.

�The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints respects the laws of each nation. In seeking legal recognition, church President Gordon B. Hinckley has said we �go through the front door,� meeting all the requirements that governments expect of us,� said Michael Otterson, a church spokesman.

�In this case, the church has appreciated working constructively with the government ministry responsible for such matters in the Slovak Republic. That nation, as a recent member of the European Union, is emphasizing more openness, democracy and freedom of religion, and the church is grateful to be a part of a process which will bless the lives of all its people.�

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded in 1830 by Joseph Smith. The LDS Church acknowledges theological differences with the Catholic Church. Among the issues on which there is disagreement are the LDS Church�s use of additional scripture such as the Book of Mormon and different interpretations of the Trinity, Otterson said.

(© 2006 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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