'Keep Faith alive in family' he tells fathers and mothers
IN an encyclical letter addressed directly to the faithful of Czechoslovakia last Sunday the Holy Father challenges the country's Communist rulers even whilst he encourages those who suffer at their hands.
The Pope recalls how Bishops, hundreds of priests, religious and nuns, and a great number of laymen are imprisoned or in concentration camps for defending the Faith, but are regarded by the regime as "destructive and subversive enemies of the State."
This, says the Holy Father, " redounds to their hortottr and
not to their shame."
The encyclical begins with the assertion that there is nothing more glorious in the country's proud history than the Catholic religion, nothing more suited to bring about concord or to consolidate peace, to promote justice and charity, to safeguard human dignity or to advance civilisation.
" Yet that religion is at present either denied its rightful liberty, or it is obstructed by difficulties and obst4cles of all kinds, to such an extent that it is almost impossible for it to fulfil its mission properly."
The Holy father reasserts the love of Catholics for their fatherland but also their right to practise their religion unhampered by unjust punishment for their tenacious fidelity to their ancestral religion."
Hc goes on: " In striving to do this, despite the very great dangers which threaten them, they win the admiration not only of the whole Catholic world but of all men of goodwill."
The Pope then stresses the particularly vital role of the family in conditions where the practice of the Faith is made so difficult.
Every guile. he said, is being used to induce youths and young children to abandon their religion and Christian morals " in order that they may be deprived of those principles and norms which guide their formative years and make them citisens worthy of the name of Catholic.
" Above all we earnestly exhort fathers and mothers of families not to spare any efforts or attention in this matter as to them above all, in these conditions falls the duty of making good with all diligence he work which priests and teachers are prevented from doing."
Turning then to the attempts of the Communists to " drag the faithful away from the unity of the Catholic Church," the Holy Father urges that none should lose heart.
"Above all, let not the sacred pastors lose heart, who duty it is as a special office accredited to them by God, to nourish the faith of their flock, to uphold their courage, and to strengthen the bond of union between them and this Apostolic See."
Here, it would seem, the Holy Father has in mind particularly those priests in Czechoslovakia who have wavered under the promises and threats of a ruthless regime.
" Remember this above all else; men can rob you of your liberty, they can afflict you with torments, they can subject you to public derision, they can cast you into prison, they can even put you to death: but they can never pluck the Catholic faith from your breasts nor sully your conscience.
"They will be able to make martyrs if they wish but they will not be able to make traitors to the Christian religion provided that all with resolute will persevere in obedience to the laws of God and the Church."