IN an encyclical letter to the Catholics of the Oriental Rites, published on Tuesday, the Pope describes the "new tempests" of persecution devastating and destroying Christian communities in many countries and invites prayers during the Church Unity Octave for those suffering behind the Iron Curtain.
The Holy Father held out a hope of "most certain victory—not from the blood of men in conflict among themselves but that which is founded on just and legitimate liberty."
The long letter was addressed to the Patriarchs, Archbishops, Bishops and other clergy of the Oriental Churches "having peace and communion with the Apostolic See." The letter will be known by its two opening Latin words, Orientales Ecciesia.
In it His Holiness speaks of the "multitudes of the faithful in Oriental regions who see their Bishops put to death or dispersed, or so impeded that they are unable freely to address their flocks and exercise their authority.
6 Terrible catastrophe'
The Holy Father refers specifically to Bulgaria. Rumania and the Soviet Ukraine in recounting the persecutions heaped on the Church.
Jo Bulgaria he says there was a small but flourishing community of Catholics, but a "terrible catastrophe" there has eaed profound mourning in the ercilgOes on to recall that Bishop Bossilkov has Cm:Reidy been condemned to death, together with three of his priests and that many others have been imprisoned or prevented from carrying out their priestly functions.
What has happened in Bulgaria has been happening already for some time amongst other peoples where the Church of the Oriental Rite flourishes, "namely amongst the people of Rumania, of the Ukraine and among many other peoples also."
His Holiness dwella especially on
persecutions in the Ukraine and the Ukranian capital of Kiev, and appeals to all Catholics to raise their voices in prayer—particularly during the Octave this month for those suffering behind the Iron Curtain and for the unity of the Church.
There, are many, millions of Catholics of the various Oriental Rites to whom the Holy Father in particular addressses his message. The majority are in countries now ruled by Communism.
For that reason no up-to-date figures are available, but Ponald Attwater. in The Christian Churches of the East, published in 1932, gave a general total of "nearly Si millions." Some 3,500,000 were at that time in Galicia (Poland) under the care of the Archbishop of Lwow. The present Archbishop is at this moment under arrest.
In and Rumania the Corm munists are conducting a campaign of terrorisation, aimed at forcing the Oriental Rite Catholics into the schismatic Orthodox body, which they find easier to control.
Some 1.500,000 Rumanians are Oriental Rite Catholics. In Bulgaria they number only a few thousand and are consequently particularly open to attack.