Page 4, 17th July 1953

17th July 1953
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Page 4, 17th July 1953 — PRIESTS FOR NEW FREE RUSSIA
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Locations: Shanghai, Moscow, Rome, Kiev

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PRIESTS FOR NEW FREE RUSSIA

DONALD ATTWATER

describes the work of two centres in U.S.A.

N spite of all the talk and

writing that goes on about Russia, the Church of that land is probably still the least known of major Christian bodies, its size, importance and significance notwithstanding. I do not mean least known in the sense of lack of information—on the contrary, information is copious over a long period of time—but in the sense of little diffused knowledge of the subject and indeed, whether as cause or effect, little general interest in it either.

The definitive evangelisation of Russia was undertaken from Constantinople; and at this time, about 988 under St. Vladimir, grandprince of Kiev, the Byzantine Church was still in communion with the Holy See. But the Greek tatriarch Cerularius and the events that followed him were only just below the horizon; and 36 years after the sack of Constantinople, by the Frankish crusaders in 1204, Kiev fell before the Mongols.

It was probably inevitable that the Church of Russia should be drawn into the gradual separation from the West of the rest of the Eastern Orthodox Church : and she tends to figure in our history text-books only in the person of the Greek Isidore, metropolitan of Kiev-Moscow, at the Council of Florence, and then to disappear again until the era of persecution under the Soviets after 1917.

Religion in U.S.S.R.

slis perhaps being slowly re alisedalised by Catholics that the overwhelmingly greater part of the weight of this hitter persecution has been borne by Christians not in Catholic communion.

At the same time there seems to be an idea about that Christianity in any organised sense no longer exists in the U.S.S.R.; or at most that it is represented by an underground remnant and a vestigial "Official Church" whose hierarchs, we over-hastily assume, have come to some disgraceful understanding with their atheist rulers.

That the Orthodox Church of Russia still exists and openly functions in its hierarchical form is certain. About the conditions on which in actuality it is allowed to carry on its work there. there is less clear knowledge; and about the personal attitude and relations of its patriarch and other bishops with the Soviet Qovernment less still (wherefore we should do well to withhold our judgments upon them).

There is no doubt that there is in Russia today a numerous and widespread Christianity, purged and confirmed by persecution, living its life in conditions which to us of the free West appear monstrous, but which to our predeces

martyrs before 314 would be familiar enough.

It is possible that today the niembers of the Russian Orthodox Church still form the largest Christian body in the world organised on a national basis.

Jesuit pioneers U.71TH IN 25 years of the death Tv of St. Ignatius Loyola members of the Society of Jesus were ministering in Byelorussia; when Pope Clement XIV suppressed the Society in 1773 it was in that same area that his decree was inoperative.

It is therefore appropriate that Jesuits should now be foremost

among the Catholics working for the welfare of Russian Christians and spreading knowledge of them in the West; and among their institutions concerned with different aspects of this work are two in the United States. The Institute of Contemporary Russian Studies at Fordham University, New York. was founded in 1950 to give full courses in Russian language and literature. history, philosophy, religion. Soviet sociology and economics, and art, including the history of eikonpainting and of ballet. It has a strong faculty of clergy and lay professors, Russians and others, Catholics and Orthodox, and the institute is the only one of ,4ts kind in any Catholic university. Five priests

IN the following year a Russian 'Centre was opened. This also is at Fordham, but it is a seIf-contained institution, separate from the university and the Russian

Institute but working in co-opera

tion with it. •

This had its origin after the Communist invasion of China had

brought the Catholic Russian mission at Shanghai to an end. An English Jesuit of Slav-Byzantine rite, Fr. Feodor Wilcock, who had been superior at Shanghai for 10 years, was sent from Rome to

establish a Russian Centre in the United States. He was enabled to take over some army huts at Fordham as a temporary home, and was joined by three of his colleagues from Shanghai.

The present resident community consists of seven Jesuits, all except one of Slav-Byzantine rite : two are Russian, two American, two English and one Irish.

'God's moment

IrHE ultimate aim of the priests of the Russian Centre, of other Jesuits engaged in similar work elsewhere and of other Catholics concerned in the Russian religious problem is to prepare for the day, "God's moment," when some measure of religious and other freedom shall have been restored in Russia.

In that day a huge field of ministry will be reopened among the Christians of Russia; missionaries will he needed to go to those who have been victims of Godless indoctrination; and the separation that exists between the Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church will again become vitally significant. That is obviously a long-range aim, for the day of release may still be a very long way off : and were it to come tomorrow, very few would be ready for it. There is a tremendous amount of interim work to be done. much of it in itself long-term, and so far as the Russian Centre at Fordham is concerned it can at present be summarised as follows: Five alms 1. To train priests and foster voeations for the Russian apostolate (not necessarily in the Society of Jesus). 2. To publish Catholic books in Russian, and books in English on Russian questions. 3. To do relief work among Russian displaced persons. 4. To make and maintain contacts with dissident Orthodox Christians in general and Russians in particular.

5. To spread among Catholics a true knowledge of Russia, its people and their Christianity; and thus to gain interest, prayers and material support for the work.

6. To be a centre of information not only about the Russian apostolate but also about the nonCatholic Eastern Churches, and their small Catholic counterparts, in general.

Mr. Attyvater's article will be concluded next week.




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