Book Recalls Communist-Era Martyrdom in Europe

Minutes of a 1998 Vatican Congress Published

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 24, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See has presented a book which gathers the testimonies of martyrdom of Eastern-rite Catholics during the Communist regimes in Europe.



"Faith and Martyrdom: Catholic Eastern Churches in 20th Century Europe," a 520-page volume published by the Congregation for Eastern Churches, presents the minutes of the Symposium of Contemporary Ecclesiastical History, held in the Vatican from Oct. 22-24, 1998.

Cardinal Ignace Moussa I Daoud, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, explained during the press conference Tuesday that the book is a collection of testimonies of "new martyrs" that, because they were "so numerous, have not been able to pass through the normal canonical processes of the Church."

"But they are genuine martyrs, who spilt their blood out of faith in the Gospel, out of love for Christ, out of obedience to the Father," the Syrian cardinal said. "They are bishops, priests, consecrated persons and lay people who stayed in their place, believing that the Lord's grace was worth more than life."

They included baptized persons of several Catholic Eastern Churches -- Ukrainian, Romanian, Slovakian and Ruthenian -- "that after being suppressed in history arose again and today are concerned about not losing the memory of the persecution," added the patriarch emeritus of Antioch of the Syrians.

These Catholics maintain the traditions and liturgy of the Eastern Churches -- as the Orthodox do -- but differ from the latter in their fidelity to the Pope.

The Communist regimes confiscated the property of these Churches and forced their pastors and faithful to join the Orthodox Church. Those who were opposed paid in blood or were imprisoned.

Cardinal Daoud said that the book "does not omit those responsible for so much suffering." But he added: "Despite everything, there is no resentment."

"Notwithstanding historically difficult relations, in many cases during the 'century of martyrs,' Eastern Catholics and those of other confessions were able to suffer together in prisons, concentration camps and forced labor camps," he said.

The cardinal was accompanied at the press conference by two witnesses of the Communist repression.

One of them, Bishop Pavlo Vasylyk, 77, of the Kolomyia-Chernivtsi Eparchy of Ukraine, was imprisoned on many occasions by the Soviet authorities.

In May 1989 he led an ecclesiastical delegation which, after a hunger strike, succeeded in having Mikhail Gorbachev's government recognize his Church.

Monsignor Tertullian Ioan Langa, 82, of the Cluj-Gherla Eparchy, also spoke at the press conference. He spent 16 years in Communist prisons of Romania, and recalled "the diabolical rites" used by the Communists to force prisoners to speak.

His bishop and intellectual and spiritual teachers, he said, were "victims of atheist Communism."