“Spilling Their Blood” — The Popes, Ukraine and Russia| National Catholic Register

On December 23, 1945, Pope Pius XII published the encyclical Orientales Omnes Ecclesias, a statement addressed to the Church of the Ruthenians (Slavic people of Central and Eastern Europe) and to Ukrainian Catholics, whom the atheist Soviet Communists reviled. Ukrainians were persecuted by Stalin and the Kremlin. It was a long torment that hit rock bottom in the 1930s with what became known as the Holodomor, the Soviet-orchestrated famine that doomed 7-10 million men, women and children Ukrainians to starve.

Pope Pius XII said: “The Ruthenian Rite clergy have complained in a letter to the civil government that in Western Ukraine, as it is known today, their Church has been placed in an extremely difficult position; all its bishops and many of its priests were arrested” (56).

Two days before Christmas, the Kremlin was furious with the Vatican, even as the encyclical was restricted in its language, never mentioning the word “communism”. Not one for restraint himself, Stalin responded by immediately arresting six Ukrainian bishops who were promptly accused of “Nazi collaborators” and murdered.

Much to Stalin’s frustration, he and his henchmen could not storm the Vatican and arrest the Pope. They would have hung him from the ceiling of St. Peter’s Basilica if they could. Instead, they would lynch the Pontiff in absentia with every defamatory means at their disposal. They launched a smear campaign to discredit the Pope on the world stage, referring to Pius XII as “Hitler’s Pope”, accusing him of collaborating with the Nazis. Pushed and pushed until it was picked up by the liberal left in the 1960s and 1970s, the smear eventually stuck and tainted the good name of a good pope forever.

After World War II, Stalin ordered Ukrainian Catholics to merge with the Russian Orthodox Church, which was a serious blow to the freedom of millions of Ukrainian Catholics and one of his many direct challenges to Rome. When Pius XII resisted, Stalin doubled down, practically shouting from the top of the Kremlin roof: “Hitler’s Pope!”

The sudden targeting and defamation of Pius XII by the Kremlin was so egregious that The New York Times remarked with a March 1, 1946 article, explosively titled, “Pravda Alleges the Pie-Hitler Pact.

Yes, a Pie-Hitler pact. It was a boldly ridiculous accusation by the Stalinist state which in fact eagerly negotiated, signed and enacted a Stalin-Hitler pact which was signed in August 1939 and directly launched World War II, beginning with the German invasion of Poland from the west on September 17, 1939. 1 and followed on September 17 with the Red Army’s invasion of Poland from the east.

Nevertheless, it was the kind of horrific disinformation that was the daily misinformation in the Soviet communist world.

the Pravda The writer quoted in the article said: “It is irrefutably established that during the dark years of war when mankind fought against the sinister forces of Hitlerism, Vatican policy was pro-Nazi. He remains pro-Nazi to this day.

“Hitler’s pope”, apparently, was still Hitler’s pope, even after the Führer’s death.

Although the Communists could not get their hands on the Pope’s neck, protected as he was in Vatican City, they did get their hands on the clergy and the pews, especially in Ukraine.

Ukraine was a favorite target of the Kremlin’s anger. The list of persecuted and martyrs is long, with names unrecognizable and unpronounceable for Americans, but painful for the memory of Ukrainians: Cardinal Josyf Slipyj, Bishop Vasyl Velychkovsky, Father Severian Baranyk and Father Zynoviy Kovalyk.

For decades, Ukrainians have fought to free themselves from Russian dictators. They had few friends in the West, but those who helped were never forgotten for their help.

Few steps on the part of the Soviet government could do more to convince the world of its sincerity in favor of reform,” urged President Ronald Reagan in November 1987, “than the legalization of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.”

The legalization of the Ukrainian Catholic Church was a high priority in Reagan’s mind. And there was a good reason for that. The Ukrainian Catholic Church remained one of the strongest and most cohesive organized opposition forces in the Kremlin. While other Ukrainian religious bodies had been compromised by internal forces or by Moscow, the Ukrainian Catholic Church remained under the guidance and direction of the Vatican. It was still harassed, beaten and damaged, but it remained out of Soviet control. It was a huge thorn in the side of the Russian bear for a long time.

Reagan’s words that day, which probably meant little to American ears, resonated with his friend in the Vatican. John Paul II has long lamented the mistreatment of Ukrainian Catholics and longed to go there himself to make a difference.

More than a decade later, at the end of June 2001, John Paul II visited Ukraine, a very significant four-day trip.

“I commend to divine protection the people of this city and of all Ukraine,” he said in his Angelus message from Kyiv airport on June 24. way the treasure of the faith which they have preserved for centuries – often at the cost of renunciations and sacrifices going so far as to shed their blood.

Yes, the shedding of their blood. The Ukrainians knew this all too well.

In his homily that day, John Paul II invoked the example of the martyr John the Baptist:

People of God, you who believe, hope and love the land of Ukraine, savor with joy the gift of the Gospel which you received more than a thousand years ago! Look today at John the Baptist, an enduring model of faithfulness to God and his law. John prepared the way for Christ by the testimony of his word and his life. Imitate him with docile and trusting generosity. …

He is a model of righteousness and courage in the defense of the truth, for which he was ready to pay personally, even to imprisonment and death.

Land of Ukraine, watered with the blood of martyrs, thank you for the example of fidelity to the Gospel that you have given to Christians throughout the world! So many of your sons and daughters have walked in total faithfulness to Christ; many of them remained constant until the supreme sacrifice. May their witness serve as an example and a stimulus to the Christians of the third millennium.

He pleaded with them to learn from “the school of Christ, following in the footsteps of Saint John the Baptist and the saints and martyrs of this land.” This suffering land, soaked in the blood of martyrs, still had much to suffer and to give, including in the 21st century. At the end of his four-day visit, Pope John Paul II beatified Bishop Velychkovsky, Fathers Baranyk and Kovalyk, and 22 others. The church marks the memorial of Ukrainian martyrs on June 27.

The only Slavic pope, who had seen his share of martyrs in Poland, did not forget the Ukrainian faithful once he flew to Rome. Two months later, John Paul II shared another statement with Ukrainians, celebrating their independence. It was the 10th anniversary of their coming out of the neck under the Moscow boot. “

Remembering with pleasure my recent visit to your country, he said, I cherish my encounters with the Ukrainian people, when I shared their past sufferings and at the same time their hopes for the future.

The Slavic pope was on the side of his people, begging for peace.

And now, in January 2022, the fight for peace continues. The Ukrainian people again face a Russian wolf at the door. His name is Vladimir Putin, who in an April 2005 speech described the collapse of the Soviet Union as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century. No, he does not want to unite the entirety of the former USSR. He didn’t care that some former Soviet republics would be a mere burden on his country and its larger ambitions. But Putin and his friends would be more than happy to nibble on the biggest chunk possible of Europe’s biggest territory outside of Russia itself.

And once again, the bishop of Rome does not remain silent. Pope Francis has called for a national day of prayer for the difficult situation in Ukraine. Once again the people of Ukraine look to faith for their salvation against the enemy at the gate.

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