Despite unrivalled harsh treatment, the Catholics of the Ukraine are clinging tightly to their faith, reports reaching Keston College suggest. MATERIAL contained in underground documents and reports in the Soviet press show that the proscribed Ukrainian Catholic (Uniate) Church has been rapidly increasing its activities in Western Ukraine. For some years Catholics have been seeking to have the Church registered with the Soviet authorities, a necessary step for its legalisation within the Soviet' Union.
The latest confirmation that these efforts are being maintained is provided by a report of the arrest of the% Ukrainian Catholic activist losif
Terelya containing the information that Terelya, together with four other Uniates, last September formed a special group to campaign for the legalisation of their Church.
Members of the Church have become increasingly active, particularly in the western areas of Ukraine, since the election of Pope John Paul. From the first months of his pontificate, the' Pope has shown a warm interest in the life and needs of Ukrainian Catholics abroad, and this has evidently exerted a positive influence on members of the Church in the Soviet Union itself.
In March, 1979, the Pope addressed dletter to losif Slipyj, Metropolitan of Lvov and head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, in which he encouraged
the clergy to mark with appropriate ceremony the thousandth anniversary of the Christianisation of Kievan Rus' in 988.
A year later, in March, 1980, the Pope convened an extraordinary synod of the bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church Abroad for the purpose of selecting an aide and eventual successor for Metropolitan Slipyj.
These and other moves by the Pope to meet the pastoral needs of Ukrainian Catholics have not escaped the attention of ideological workers in Ukraine.
1. Myhovych, a senior official of the Department of Propaganda and Agitation of the Ukrainian Central Committee, said of the Pope: "Unlike his predecessors, the new head of the Vatican is favourably disposed towards the unfounded pretensions of the Uniates."
Methods of conducting propaganda against Catholicism and the Uniate Church are developed at the Ivan Franko State University in Lvov and at the Institute of Social Sciences of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. Commissions for criticism of Catholicism and the Uniate Church have been set up under the auspices of the Party committee. The propaganda
against Catholicism is particularly sustained in the press of Western Ukraine . . . Ukrainian radio and television keep step, as pointed out in samizdat documents.
Apart from the series "Myth and Reality", there are television broadcasts entitled "Uniate Radio Saboteurs", which criticised the Ukrainian transmissions of Radio Vatican.
The film industry is also utilised for anti-Catholic propaganda. In the last two years, two films have been made in Ukraine portraying the Ukrainian Catholic Church and its works as hostile to the Ukrainian people.
Entitled The False Halo and The Secrets of St George's, they quite unfoundedly and indiscriminately accuse the leadership of the Ukrainian Catholic Church of abetting the Nazi occupation of Western Ukraine.
The stepping up of the campaign against the Ukrainian Catholic Church is closely linked with the actions of Pope John Paul II, who, to judge from his statements, is well aware of the current position of Ukrainian Catholics in their homeland.
The Pope is subjected to blistering criticism in publications put out in Ukraine.
The revival enjoyed by the Ukrainian Catholic Church in its homeland should be considered less as a phenomenon linked with the actions of the first Slav to be elected Pope than in the context of a general revival of religious belief among the population of the USSR and Soviet researchers themselves confirm this trend: "Empirical observations testify to a certain revival of religious faith, or at least interest in religion, in specific regions and certain sections of the population . . . Of late, a new type of believer has been emerging and becoming more and more noticeable who, compared with the old traditionalist believer, has a higher level of intellectual development, a marked tendency towards rationalistic justification of his faith, and an interest in the philosophical and ethical aspects of dogma and in the history of religion." (Voprosy nauchnogo ateizma, No. 28, 1981, pp 6, 14).