`National Church' with Moscow `-protection'
NEWS received at the Vatican in the past few days about the new persecution to force Eastern Rite Catholics in Slovakia to abandon the Holy See and put themselves under the "protection" of the Patriarch of Moscow shows that two Bishops have disappeared and about 100 priests are in prisons or concentration camps.
The latest Red move to found a " National Catholic Church" whose members would " reunite them. selves to their Common Mother, the Orthodox Church of Moscow," began three months ago with an ultimatum at a Communist-Organised conference in Bratislava.
A leading article in the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano lists these main facts about the campaign :
Mgr. Pavel Gojdic, Bishop of Presov, has vanished. No one knows where he is being held.
His Auxiliary, Bishop Hopkow, has also disappeared without trace.
Not only are about 100 priests in prison, but priests who propose to resign their parishes rather than apostatise are being charged with " sabotage" punishable by six years' imprisonment.
Only apostate priests receive salaries—the clergy's only income.
Students in their final year at high school are debarred from examinations if they refuse to apostatise. Mobile police patrols are roving the villages of the Presov diocese on the look-out for " obstinate" priests.
Recalling the progressive policy pursued since 1945 against Eastern Rite Catholics in Eastern Europe, the Osservatore says: "Contrary to the constitutional guarantees of Stalin in 1936, Catholics have been forced by violence and by all the methods open to a totalitarian Power to secede from Rome."
This happened first in the Ukraine, then in Ruthenia, later in Rumania.
"It was essential to eliminate Vatican influence in all countries restored to freedom by Soviet bayonets." And now it was the turn of the Slovaks.
" On April 28. a 'council' was called by the Governor of Bratislava," says the Osservatore. Three hundred people were obliged to attend the ' council,' including 50 priests. " A prepared resolution was submitted to them for approval. It proclaimed the 'return of Slovak Catholics to the ' Orthodoxy ' of Moscow.
The excuse is the same as ever: union with Rome was • imposed' on them by force under the Hapsburgs in the 16th century as a means of Latinising the Slays. The liberation' brought about the Red Army made possible the return to their 'Common Mother '."
The text of the Bratislava Declaration, says the Osservatore, has not yet been published, " perhaps because they do not wish to complicate a situation already made tense by other forms of persecution."
However, the declaration touched off a violent persecution throughout Slovakia.
-We are giving merely a pale picture of the infamy committed in the name of liberty," stresses the Osservatore.
" But in face of these facts the conscience of the civilised world has a right and duty to arise not only for truth but for justice. It is necessary to unmask these persecutors who base their apparent powers upon the blood and tears of the oppressed." The Vatican paper recalls that at the end of 1945 the Holy Father protested against violence committed by Russia against the Greek Catholics in the Western Ukraine and Ruthenia.
At that time the Pope charged Russia with forcing the Eastern Rite Catholics to separate themselves from the Holy See and join the Russian Orthodox Church.