7 MILLION UKRAINIANS COERCED
Conversions Are Natural
—Says Poland GRAVE ACCUSATIONS AGAINST POLAND HAVE BEEN MADE TO A STAFF REPORTER BY A PRIEST WHO IS SUPERIOR OF THE CATHOLIC UKRAINIAN MISSION IN FRANCE.
This priest, Fr. J. F. Perridon, is a Dutchman, and is at present visiting the Ukrainian Catholic Colony in Manchester.
He has spent some time as superior of a seminary in Eastern Galicia, Poland, whence he was expelled by the Polish authorities.
Fr. Perridon accuses the Poles of subjecting the seven million Ukrainians of Poland to a systematic process of denationalisation.
One method of this process, to which Fr. Perridon particularly objects, is the suppression of the Ukrainians' Byzantine rite, and the coercion of both Greek Uniate Catholics and Orthodox Catholics into the Latin Church.
The Polish Embassy, approached on the matter by the CATHOLIC HERALD, stated that Fr. Perridon's statements are tendentious and inaccurate.
An Embassy official said that the Poles were not forcing the Ukrainians to join the Latin rite, but that, on the contrary, the widespread conversions are a wholly natural and unforced phenomenon which can easily be explained historically.
INTERVIEW WITH UKRAINIAN PRIEST
By a C.H_ Reporter
" According to the Concordat of 1925, between the Vatican and Poland," said Fr. Perridon, " the Greek Uniate Church (Ukrainian) has precisely the same rights as the Catholic (Polish) Church. Yet in practice, those rights are not granted.
" For many years the Polish Government has suppressed the Ukrainian cultural life, but its main attack is on the Byzantine Rite,
"In defiance. of the Minorities Treaties and of the Concordat, Greek Catholic priests have been forbidden to teach the Faith to Ukrainian children, they have been ford to make entries in the Church books in Latin, and in the Polish form, and there have been cases of arrest and imprisonment, for failure to comply.
"Every imaginable means of coercion has been uaes1 against them. Ukrainian priests have been imprisoned for performing their legal duties, and the authorities of the Greek Catholic Church arc seriously perturbed at the number of the faithful who have been forced into the Latin Rite."
Fr. Perridon explained that the methods of coercion were mainly determined by the unfortuuate economic position of the Ukrainians.
For example, the conditions of land tenure were in a very bad way. The area of land had not increased, while families were increasing steadily. Ukrainian Catholics were not allowed to buy land, which was parcelled-out instead to Polish Colonists.
The only way open for them to obtain permission was denationalisation, which meant change of Rite.
This was also demanded as the price of obtaining Government appointments, and other social and economic benefits. It was estimated that there had been some 200,000 "conversions" from Greek Catholic to Latin Rite.
Referring to the Concordat of 1925, which rules that special permission from Rome is necessary for change from Byzantine Catholic to Latin Rite, Fr. Perridon said that " all that is thought necessary in practice is registration with the civil authorities."
"But what 14 a Greek Catholic priest refuses to accept such an uncanonical procedure?" 1 asked.
"There have been such cases. Priests have declined to make the entries in their books of change of rite, for which they have been penalised."
Fr. Perridon went on to speak of the more open prosetytiana of the Orthodox: " l'his is done chiefly by the military police, whose power is practically absolute in certain controlled zones. Thousands of Orthodox have been compelled to join the Latin Church, the result being, of course, not conversion, but a bitter assent in the interests of desperate expediency."
" What is the attitude of the Greek Catholics?" I enquired,
Purely Legal Methods
Fr. Perridon answered that since the War, the Greek Catholic Hierarchy has aimed at fulfilling the papal instructions on Reunion, by propagating unity amongst the Orthodox, by methods, however, that were unexceptional. In 1931, the Holy Father nominated Bishop Czarnetsky Apostolic Visitor to the Orthodox with that purpose in view. The Byzantine-Slavonic Rite was being organised for the Orthodox as a demarcation from the Greek Catholic. The greatest hopes had been entertained of these plans, especially as the Orthodox themselves were favourable. There had even been mass delegations at Orthodox clergy asking to be received into unity. But, by a horrible irony, it is an ostensibly Catholic Government that as prevented the fulfilment of this most Catholic, and holy airn, by forbidding the Greek Catholic clergy to visit the Orthodox territories. The missions are almost exclusively in the hands of Poles.
"As for the Orthodox,he added, " they can scarcely be blamed for regarding reunion as synonymous with an abandon, ment of Rite and Nationality. It is no exaggeration to say that one of the noblest of C-alhalic schemes for reunion has been brought to nought by the policy of those
who seem to be Nationalists before they are Catholics,"
Er, Perridon .cencluded with a reference to the reactions of the Soviet authorities whose territory adjoins that of the Orthodox Ukrainians of Poland: " It is pitiful." he said, " that Poland, which should form a Christian bulwark against the Soviet, has adopted the methods of religious persecution of the Reds.'
" It is also suicidal, for the Soviet propagandists have been quick to take advantage of what is happening. People who live along the frontier report that religious processions have been seen, on the Soviet side. obviously staged by the authorities to show the poor Ukrainians the advantages of life under a free' regime!"
The Polish View
" Fr. Perridon's statements are tenden
tious and inaccurate," was told at the Polish Embassy in London.
" It is extraordinary," the Embassy spokesman continued, " that a Catholic priest should object to the conversion of schismatics to the true Church.
"The facts of the matter are these: " No pressure is put by the Polish Government, either centrally, or by local officials, on the Ukrainians,
"'I'he widespread movement of conversion—already 400,000 have come over—is an entirely natural phenomenon.
" Most of those who have been converted from the schismatic Greek Orthodox Church. are the descendants of Poles who were formerly Catholic. For when this part of the world belonged to Czarist Russia, before the War, the Russian authorities often forced them to join the Greek Orthodox Church,
Back to the True Church " Well, the descendants of such forced converts to the Greek Orthodox Church are finding their way back to the true Church---that is the simple explanation of
the present movement. As I have said, these converts from Greek Orthodoxy to Latin Catholicism are mainly Poles—you have only to examine their names to see that.
"The same thing applies to the churches which the Latin Catholics are taking over from the Orthodox Church. These churches were confiscated by the Russian Government under the Czarist regime and transformed into Orthodox places of worship. Now, they are gradually being claimed and given back to the Catholics of the Latin rite to whom they originally belonged.
"The same movement of conversion is apparent in the Uniate Greek Church.
" Again. most of these converts are really Poles. In some cases the Uniate Church authorities have even falsified the names in the official registers in an attempt to prove that these people are really Ukrainians.
" Naturally the Uniate Church authorities are concerned at these defections from their ranks.
" Incidentally, there is a tendency at the Vatican to consider that Catholicism, in those parts of the world, should be propagated by fostering the Uniate Eastern rites.
"In Poland this is regarded as a dangerous plan.
" Nine or ten million souls have been lost to the C'hurch because they went over from a Uniate Church to the Greek Orthodox schismatical Church. That tendency always exists. But there is no tendency for Catholics of the Latin rite becoming schismatics."