PRAYER IN FACE OF PERSECUTION
DAILY prayer for all who lost their freedom for the sake of their beliefs was called for by Cardinal Diipfner, Bishop of Berlin, during a sermon at midnight Mass in the church of St. Pius in East Berlin. It was his first solemn Pontifical Mass since his return from Rome where he was created a Cardinal.
Referring to the sentences passed by East German courts on 11 Catholic laymen at Rathenow and on the four Jesuits at Frankfurt on the Oder, the Cardinal said: 1-lowever one may judge such verdicts against Christians. Christians ultimately are bound to be attacked and condemned because of their beliefs . . .
" Prove yourselves worthy of these faithful witnesses and pray foi those who have lost their freedom, that the Lord may grant them strength of mind. patience, and inner consolation."
The president of the German branch of the Fax Christi movement, Bishop Schroffer of Eichstatt, has called for prayer and penance in face of the condemnation of the four Jesuits. Many Catholic organisations in West Germany have sent telegrams to the Frankfurt district court protesting against the sentences.
A statement by the official East German news agency shows that the trial of the four Jesuits, like the trial of the 11 laymen at Rathenow earlier, forms part of the current Communist offensive against
West Berlin. The agency states:
" During the trial it became known that the centres of espionage of the West Berlin spy-swamp exercise their seditious activity against the German Democratic Republic under the abuse of ecclesiastical institutions and with the active support of members of religious orders of the Catholic Church."
A former leading German Communist, Herr Albert Walter, COMmenting on the case, said that the East German Communists had, in these two cases, shown themselves apt pupils of the Nazis. In fact, they had perfected the terroristic methods which they had taken over from the Nazis for persecuting the Church.
" There were three main reasons for the trials." continued Herr Walter. First, there were internal
political difficulties and the need to
find scapegoats for the shortcomings of the regime: in this case the continued flood of refugees over the border into West Berlin was involved.
Secondly, there was the need to attack the strongest opposition to the regime. which today was to be found almost exclusively in the spiritual power of resistance of both the Catholic and Lutheran Churches. Thirdly, there was the attack on religion itself, which was being carried out in all the satellite countries.