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Today the Ukrainian Catholic Church is Fiercely Persecuted

Claiming "no institution has suffered more than the Ukrainian Catholic Church" in the deliberate attack on religion by the Soviet government, the United States Department of State has recently issued an authoritative report entitled Soviet Repression of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. The report, prepared by the Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs of the State Department documents how the Soviet government forcibly attempted to liquidate the Ukrainian Catholic Church in 1946, and has continually repressed all attempts at the free exercise of their faith by the Ukrainian Catholics in western Ukraine, who are in union with Rome.

The Appeal of Archbishop Stephen Sulyk

Commenting on the special report, Archbishop Stephen Sulyk of the Ukrainian Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia stated that "this tragic story of the persecuted Faithful of the Ukrainian Catholic Church must be shared with the whole world. As Yosyf Terelya, a major figure in the underground Ukrainian Catholic Church, who was released recently from the notorious Camp 36, near Kuchino, known as 'death camp', after spending many years in Soviet labor camps, prisons, and psychiatric institutions stated, 'All information about the Ukrainian Catholic Church will be passed on for scrutiny by the world public. The Catholics of the world should know and be reminded in what conditions we exist.'"

In his appeal to brother bishops in the United States, Archbishop Sulyk writes: "As members of the same Body of Christ, I trust that you will choose to help ease the struggles of our Ukrainian Catholic brethren in the modern catacombs by appealing to man's sense of brotherhood and justice" through all means available.

In expressing the fervent hope of Ukrainian Catholics worldwide, Archbishop Sulyk prays that the Soviet authorities will end their ruthless persecution of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the Soviet Union.

The Official Report

Continued from Issue No. 27

Fines, Beatings, Imprisonment

Almost invariably, these clergymen and monastics hold full-time secular jobs or have retired from such employment. The identities of the older clergy seem to be known to the Soviet police, who frequently subject them to searches, interrogations, and fines but stop short of arrests unless they have extended their activities beyond a narrow circle of friends in private homes. It appears, however, that Soviet authorities are much more ruthless in dealing with new, secretly ordained priests.

In 1968, apparently in connection with the legalization of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Czechoslovakia, the harassment of "recalcitrant" clergy escalated into a large-scale campaign against "illegal" Ukrainian Catholic clergy. Many of these clergymen were subjected to searches, interrogations, fines, and beatings. In January, 1969, the KGB arrested an underground Catholic Bishop named Vasyl' Velychkovskiy and two Catholic priests, sentencing them to three years of imprisonment for alleged violations of the "law on cults".

Religious activities that are "illegal" when performed by Catholic priests or members include holding religious services; educating children in the Catholic Faith; performing Baptisms, wedding rites, and funerals; hearing Confessions; anointing the ill; copying religious materials; and possessing prayer books, icons, Church calendars, religious books, and other sacred objects.

Soviet sources reveal numerous examples of arrests for such activities. One is the case of Father Ivan Kryvy, who was arrested in 1973 for organizing the printing of a Ukrainian Catholic prayer book (actually a reprint of a prayer book published in Canada in 1954) in three consecutive editions (1969, 1971, and 1972) totaling 3,500 copies. The work was done by two employees of the Lvov state printing shop who also were arrested in 1973 together with another person involved in the distribution of these materials. In the same manner, the clandestine printers also produced 150 copies of a Carol and Church Songs book and 150 copies of the Missal.

The most active lay people and clergy of the "illegal" Church have tried to use legal means to defend their Church. By 1956-1957, there were cases in which believers had tried to legalize their Ukrainian Catholic communities according to Soviet law by petitioning the proper authorities to permit their parish congregations to operate openly. A number of such petitions were sent in the late 1960s and early 1970s, including an appeal from the Ukrainian Catholics of the city of Stryi, which reached the West in 1972.

All of these petitions were refused. In 1976 a Ukrainian Catholic priest named Father Volodymyr Prokopiv was arrested for accompanying a delegation of Ukrainians to Moscow with such a petition, signed by a large number of Catholics from the Lvov region. The Soviet response to these petitions has been to sharpen repressive measures against the activist clergy, monastics, and lay people and to intensify their propaganda.

Voices Raised by Dissidents

Our Merciful Lord gave us the means to obtain relief for our suffering brethren behind the Iron Curtain — that is by obeying His command given through Our Lady of Fatima to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

In recent years, the cause of persecuted Ukrainian Catholics has been taken up by the dissident movement in Ukraine. Since 1970, the movement's organ, the Ukrainian Herald, has carried accounts of the harassment, searches, arrests, and trials of Catholics and has editorially condemned "wanton liquidation" of the Church as "illegal and unconstitutional". A leading Ukrainian dissident, historian Valentyn Moroz, devoted part of his Chronicle of Resistance to the nation-building role of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Western Ukraine; he equated the regime's anti-Catholic struggle with an attack upon "the spiritual structure of the nation".

Lithuanian Catholic dissidents also have raised their voices in recent years. In their petitions to Soviet authorities and in their underground Chronicle of the Lithuanian Catholic Church, they have joined Ukrainian dissidents in calling for the lifting of the illegal ban on the Ukrainian Catholic Church. Likewise, in September, 1974, a leading Russian Orthodox dissident named Anatoliy Levitin-Krasnov appealed to Sakharov's human rights committee in Moscow to raise its voice in defense of Ukrainian Catholics and other persecuted religious groups. "The Union in Western Ukraine", wrote Levitin-Krasnov, "is a massive popular movement. Its persecution means not only religious oppression, but also restriction of the national rights of Western Ukraine."7

Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Ukraine

At the beginning of 1984, a group of Ukrainian Catholics began to publish and disseminate asamizdat publication, the Chronicle of the Catholic Church. To date, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Munich has received and broadcast nine numbered issues of the Chronicle plus one special issue. The 10th edition of the Chronicle was published in June, 1986 and had a significant change in title: Chronicle of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the Catacombs. The Chronicle is published by members of the "Initiative Group for the Defense of the Right of Believers and the Church in Ukraine", which was established in 1982 and spearheads the campaign of Ukrainian Catholics for the legalization of their Church.8

It was years of abortive demands by believers that authorities legalize the activities of the Catholic Church in Western Ukraine that brought about the emergence of an organized human rights movement among believers. In early 1982 the Central Committee of Ukrainian Catholics was formed, and Yosyf Terelya was elected its chairman. In a statement about the formation of the Initiative Group, addressed to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine, Terelya wrote:

"This was the response of Ukrainian Catholics to increasing repression against the Ukrainian Catholic Church. From now on, all information about the Ukrainian Catholic Church will be passed on for scrutiny by the world public. The Catholics of the world should know and be reminded in what conditions we exist."9

Information Relates to Members of the Ukrainian Catholic Church

The first three issues of the Chronicle are varied, although they deal largely with the lives of believers — Catholics, Orthodox, Baptists, Pentecostals, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Seventh-Day Adventists — giving accounts of repressive measures taken against them and naming the camps and psychiatric hospitals in which they are confined.

The journals also devote considerable attention to the sociopolitical situation in Ukraine and discuss such diverse subjects as the Raoul Wallenberg case, Russification, and the Polish workers' movement. Most of the information contained in the Chronicle, however, relates to the lives of members of the banned Ukrainian Catholic Church, especially to violations of their human rights. These journals underscore the needs of the people to worship freely in their own rite, to have their own churches with free access to them, and to have their own priests and their own language.10

The founder of the Initiative Group and moving force behind the Chronicle, Yosyf Terelya, was arrested on February 8, 1985, and sentenced on August 20, 1985, to seven years imprisonment and five years of exile for his religious activities. He had already spent years in various camps, prisons, and psychiatric institutions. He is currently serving his sentence in Camp No. 36 near Kuchino, the so-called death camp where, since May, 1984, four prominent Ukrainian prisoners have died — Ukrainian Helsinki Monitors Vasyl' Stus, Oleska Tykhy, Yuriy Lytvyn, and journalist Valeriy Marchenko.

Terelya's successor as chairman of the Initiative Group, Vasyl' Kobryn, also was sentenced in March, 1985 to three years of imprisonment for "anti-Soviet slander". The plight of Terelya and Kobryn is just one example of the persecution of countless numbers of Ukrainian Catholics who have suffered harassment, illegal searches, beatings, and arrests solely because of their attempts to practice their religious beliefs.

Grounds for Repression

Clearly, the Ukrainian Catholic faithful who were driven underground following the forced 1946 "reunion" have posed an especially complicated problem for Soviet authorities. Enjoying massive support from believers in the Western Ukraine, as well as from the strong Ukrainian Catholic diaspora in the West, the faithful have survived despite repeated repressive measures. They have survived both within the formal Orthodox Church — so-called secret Catholics — and as an "illegal" Church with a succession of its own bishops and a network of secular and monastic clergy, performing clandestine religious rites in private homes, at cemeteries, and even in officially "closed" churches. Among young people, in particular, there has been a growing acceptance of religious traditions and symbols as important links with the past and as integral elements of national culture.

The reaction of the regime has been to renew its emphasis on mass anti-religious propaganda, especially in Western Ukraine. Conferences have been organized on the subject of perfecting the methodology to combat Ukrainian Catholicism in Western Ukraine.11 Numerous publications have appeared that attempt to discredit the union of the congregations in Ukraine and what is now Byelorussia with Rome in 1596; these go to great pains to prove the allegations that the Catholic Church conducted activities that were directed against the population of Ukraine during the first half of the 20th Century.

The growth of interest in Ukrainian Catholicism has to be understood in relation to the general rise of interest in religion, spiritual values, and ethics among the younger generation in Ukraine. Complaints by Soviet officials and their publications attest to this revival. A letter by an avowed atheist published as part of an article on religious belief and atheist propaganda in a 1984 issue ofNauka i Religiya (Science and Religion) states:

"lf you could only imagine how difficult it is for us atheists in Ukraine. For many years now, I have been involved in the thankless propagandizing task of Soviet ritualism. I have ploughed through mountains of literature, observed, pondered, and spent many hours in the churches where religious rites are practiced. I have come to the conclusion that Soviet official statistics are very far from reality."12

The problem of religious practices in Western Ukraine also was raised by the first secretary of the Lvov Komsomol, Oleksiy Babiychuk:

"... In this oblast, particularly in the rural areas, a large number of the population adheres to religious practices, among them a large proportion of youth. In the last few years, the activity of the Uniates (Ukrainian Catholics) has grown, that of representatives of the Uniates as well as former Uniate priests; there are even reverberations to renew the overt activity of this Church."13

Supported by Solidarity

Another important factor in the steady growth of interest in Catholicism in Ukraine has been the proximity of the Solidarity movement and the election of a Slavic Pope. It is worth noting that for some years now the Polish dissident movement — particularly members of Solidarity — has supported Ukraine's quest for self-determination in its official statements and publications and, conversely, members of the dissident movement in the Ukraine, like Vasyl' Stus and Yosyf Terelya, have praised Solidarity in their activities. In an open letter, published in 1981 in the journal of Catholic opposition in Poland, Spotkanie, Ukrainian Catholics registered their joy on the occasion of the election of Cardinal Wojtyla as Pope.14

At the same time, Soviet authorities have launched a related propaganda campaign in Ukraine, disseminating publications that criticize the Vatican's support for believers in Soviet-bloc countries. The mass media also has stepped up its attacks on Pope John Paul II, especially his support of Ukrainian Catholics.15 The anti-religious journal Liudyna i Svit (Man and the World), published in Kiev, stated the following:

"Proof that the Church is persistently striving to strengthen its political influence in socialist countries is witnessed by the fact that Pope John Paul II gives his support to the emigre Hierarchy of the so-called Ukrainian Catholic Church ... The current tactic of Pope John Paul II and the Roman Curia lies in the attempts to strengthen the position of the Church in all socialist countries as they have done in Poland, where the Vatican tried to raise the status of the Catholic Church to a state within a state.

"In the last few years, the Vatican has paid particular attention to the question of Catholicism of the Slavonic nations. This is poignantly underscored by the Pope when he states that he is not only a Pope of Polish origin, but the first Slavic Pope, and he will pay particular attention to the Christianization of all Slavic nations."16

These same themes were stressed at a 1981 symposium in Bratislava for specialists in anti-religious propaganda in Warsaw Pact countries. One of the papers dealing with Ukrainian Catholicism stated the following:

"Pope John Paul II has approved certain additional measures, directed in support of the Uniates ... (The) Head of the Vatican underscored his 'dedication' to the Uniates by approving the claims of Cardinal Slipyj to represent and speak on behalf of all the faithful of the Western province of the Ukrainian SSR."17

However, Ukrainian Catholicism, seen as the strongest and most representative exponent of cultural and spiritual ties with the West, remains an obstacle to the Soviet goal of creating a single Soviet people. The Soviet regime has officially liquidated the Church and also has attempted to erase it from historic memory. To enable Moscow to achieve its goals, all signs of the religion's ongoing revival are continuously repressed.

7. Soviet Persecution of Religion in Ukraine, Human Rights Commission World Congress of Free Ukrainians, Toronto, 1976, pp. 33-34.
8. Because of the potential for intentionally planted disinformation, it is impossible to be certain that all items in the Chronicle were written by or reflect the opinions of Ukrainian Catholics in Ukraine today. However, enough of the facts have been substantiated by other sources to make the Chronicle on the whole a credible source of information about the true status of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.
9. Josyf Terelya, "Declaration to the CC CPU on the formation of the Initiative Group of the Defense of the Rights of Believers and the Church in Ukraine," Arkhiv Samizdata (AS) 4897 Radio Liberty, Munich, 1983.
10. On the Chronicle, see Radio Liberty 3/85, Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Ukraine, January 7, 1985; Bohdan Nahaylo, "The Church Rumbling Beneath the Kremlin," The Times, January 12, 1985; Maxine Pollack, "KGB Crackdown in the Ukraine", The Sunday Times, January 27, 1985; Bohdan Nahaylo, "Persecuted Ukrainian Catholics Speak Out", The Wall Street Journal (European edition), February 18, 1985; Ivan Mhul, "La resistance tenance des catholiques clandestines d'Ukraine", Le Monde, March 1, 1985; George Zarycky, "Soviet Journal on Religious Dissent May Embarrass Kremlin", The Christian Science Monitor, March 6, 1985; Radio Liberty 71/85, "Moscow Still Putting Pressure on Ukrainian Catholics to Break with Rome", March 8, 1985; and Radio Liberty 101/85. "First Issue of new Samizdat Journal Put Out by Ukrainian Catholics (Uniates)", March 26, 1985.
11. In November, 1982, a conference was held in Kiev on the topic "The Anti-Communist Essence of Uniate-Nationalistic Falsification of the History of the Ukrainian Nation", (Liudyna i Svit, No. 2, February, 1983, p. 21). Toward the end of 1983, in the city of Kalush, Ivano-Frankovsk Oblast, a conference was held dealing with "Uniatism and Ukrainian Bourgeois-Nationalism", (Liudyna i Svit, No. 1, January, 1984, p. 33). In April, 1985 a conference was held in Lvov on "Critique of the Catholic Uniate Ideology in Atheist Propaganda",(Nauka i Religiya, No. 11, November, 1985, p. 34).
12. Nauka i Religiya, Moscow, No. 10, October 1984, p. 11.
13. Ibid., No. 1, January, 1985, p. 10.
14. Ivan Hvat, "The Ukrainian Catholic Church, the Vatican, and the Soviet Union During the Pontificate of Pope John Paul II", Religion in Communist Lands, vol. 11, No. 3, (Winter, 1983) pp. 264-280.
15. Ibid., pp. 277-278; see also L. F. Shevtsov, Sotsializm i Katolitsizm, (Moscow: Nauka, 1982), p. 39.
16. I. Tykhonov, "Catholic Church: New Trends, Old Goals", (in Ukrainian) Liudyna i Svit, No. 10, October, 1982, pp. 53-54.
17. B. Lobovik, I. Myhovic, Zlopovestne tiene minulosti, No. 4, Bratislava, 1981, pp. 361-469.