M . Polipenko.
A Possibility—But Without Aid From the Orthodox Church " The present state of Russia ought to be a spur to all Catholics, and to make them more active than ever."
These words were spoken by the Archpriest Polipenko in a recent interview on the question of union between the Orthodox Church and Catholics.
Mgr. Polipenko is a Catholic convert from the Russian Church. On his conversion his whole parish came over with him, and he was forced to leave Russia and live in the Ukraine. He was appointed Professor at the Benedictine Missionary College of St. Andrew in Munich by the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, but he has recently left Germany.
Mgr. Polipenko does not believe that there is much chance of a union with the Russian Orthodox Church, as it is violently anti-Catholic and the priests would rather make an alliance with the Soviet than with the Catholic Church.
There are, however, two distinct territories under Soviet rule, Russia and the Ukraine, and in the latter the situation is very different.
Country and People
Ukraine stretches from the Polish border to the Caucausus with a population of fifty millions, with their own history, language and traditions. It is the fourth biggest country in Europe, and the second largest Slav State. Its history, geographical position, and the racial characteristics of its people make it the best point of departure for the conversion of Eastern Europe.
The Ukrainians are notoriously religious. There are well-tended Calvaries on almost every road, and in the villages and towns, the churches are cared for and spotlessly clean.
Past History Ukraine was once united to the Holy See, by the Union of Brest in 1596, and some parts of the smuntry are still Catholic —notably Galicia and the Carpathians.
In spite of the subsequent break, the people have kept most of the ecclesiastical traditions and customs of the Church of Rome.
There arc today Ukranian Catholics in Siberia who refused to return to the Orthodox Church when the Government ordered it. Catholics in Ukraine are still putting up a strong resistance to the Russian army, which is backing up the Orthodox Church. They have even given up all their property and possessions rather than submit.
The task of conversion to Catholicism is made easier too, by the fact that there is great disruption in the Orthodox Church itself.
It must not be forgotten that Kieff, the capital of Ukraine. is a most important
catholic centre. It has many convents and churches, and its Willie-rice spreads over Central Europe.
It may, therefore, be said without exaggeration that attempts to convert Eastern Europe have very little hope of success unless Ukraine is converted first.
The Ukrainians are .not at all satisfied with the state of the Orthodox Church, and directly after the Russian Revolution many people asked for union with Rome. Whole parishes have wanted to become Catholic, but there has been no Bishop capable of taking them under his jurisdiction.
Mgr. Polipenko's Labour In 1927 Mgr. Polipenko himself founded a parish in Wolhynia, on the Polish frontier, and very soon he had several thousand converts. With powers to found churches, and organise parishes, he preached in the streets, and gave open-air services until they asked for services in their own churches. In the parish of Dubreczno the Orthodox Church was brought to him on the men's shoulders! More than three million people were converted in this parish alone, a sure indication of what could happen in the rest of Ukraine.