Front Our Russian Correspondent
A strong campaign in certain sections of the British press is being waged to foster the view that there is no real persecution of religion in Soviet Russia and that any traces of such persecution are now being washed away in a semi-religious war-revival.
While one may hope for a change of policy in Soviet Russia, no evidence is forthcoming that there has been any, and no importance can seriously be iattached to reported Moscow calls for Christians to unite to overthrow " Hitler, the Anti-Christ."
In view of unrenounced Bolshevik anti-God policy, such propaganda is nauseous hypocrisy in every way comparable to the Nazi " crusade." Its Intention is to deceive Ille world and to exploit the religious feelings of the Russian people which 23 years of the bitterest persecution has failed to destroy.
"DAILY MIRROR'S " FACTS
• Let us analyse a recent article in the Daily Mirror, purporting to give " official facts and' figures " about religion in Russia.
First conies the report of the flocking of 12,000 people to Moscow's " great cathedral " to pray for victory. This canard has been spread and magnified by various commentators, thus the American Mr. Gram Swing declared that " the Russian Primate conducted High Mass in the Moscow Cathedral which was attended by 12,000 worshippers, whilst thousands more gathered outside."
From personal knowledge we affirm that since the demolition of the only really large cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Moscow has no church which could con
fain even 2,000 worshippers, Mtn' the report is but a piece of propaganda intended for earnest but naive Christians in England and America.
The Daily Mirror then proceeds to state that " there are 8,338 churches, Catholic churches, synagogues and mosques in the U.S.S.R." Also " 58.442 ministers of religious worship, without counting the Armenian Gregorian Church and the preachers of different sects." Later, however, blissfully oblivious of his previous statement, the writer suddenly declares that " In the U.S.S.R. there are
Churches .. .. 4,225 Monasteries........37 Priests 5,665 Deacons and Sacristans .. 3,N)0."
What has the bewildered reader to make
out of those contradictory figures? Are there 8,338 or 4,225 churches, synagogues and mosques still open? And what is the real number of ministers of all denominations, 58,442, or 8,765? And which monasteries still exist ; arc they functioning as religious houses linger lawful ecclesiastical authority?
Even were one or other set of figures fairly accurate, it would he necessary to recall that in 1917 the Russian national Church alone had sonic 60,000 churches served by 70,000 priests and deacons, with probably an equal number of clerics in minor orders. There were in the Empire some 500 monasteries and 300 convents with about 55,000 religious; 4 ecclesiastical academies, 60 seminaries and over 40,000 parish schools. The Catholic Church had in preBolshevik Russia 8 bishops 850 priests and a corresponding number of churches.
The Pontifical Year Book proves that the Catholic Church had been deprived of all
administrators. Practically all priests were removed from their parishes and imprisoned or exiled. Only two foreign priests (American and French) remained in Leningrad and Moscow and also a few aged and sick priests were allowed to die in their parishes. If all this is " religious freedom " we should like to know what Soviet apologists would tail " persecution "?
SHAMELESS TWISTING OF FACTS
The Daily Mirror would like its people to believe that " the Soviet Government does not regard religion as ' opium for the people ' ", but the Soviet official interviewed by the Catholic Herald on August 15 put the matter somewhat differently:
"As you know, we regard religion as at best a superstition, and at worst as an instrument for doping the toiling masses whilst the privileged classes exploit them."
There is indeed no doubt, as has been frequently stated in this paper, that the persecuted people of Russia kept religion alive, but that was despite the persistent efforts of the Bolsheviks to destroy it.