Pontiff Remembers Famine in Soviet Ukraine

Notes 70th Anniversary of Vatican Radio's Polish Section

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 23, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI remembered today the victims of a Soviet-era famine that took the lives of millions of Ukrainians in the 1930s.



After praying the Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square, the Pope noted, "In these days we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Holodomor -- the great famine -- that in the years 1932-1933 caused millions of deaths in Ukraine and in other regions of the Soviet Union during the Communist regime."

The Holodomor, translated literally from Ukrainian as death by hunger, is largely blamed on Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's collectivization policies.

After farmers in Ukraine failed to meet high grain quotas in the fall of 1932, authorities began to confiscate grain and all food products. Additionally, Ukrainians were prohibited from leaving to search for food.

The anniversary of the famine is traditionally marked in late November, when the food shortages began.

This year, Ukraine's parliament declared the Soviet policy and "act of genocide," and the European Parliament recognized it as "a crime against humanity."

In 2003, the United Nations stated the famine was caused by the policies of the Soviet Union.

The Pope expressed his hope that "no political regime will ever again, in the name of ideology, deny the rights, the freedom and dignity of the human person." The Pope added the assurance of his prayers for the "innocent victims of that enormous tragedy."

He invoked the intercession of the Virgin "to help all nations continue on the path of reconciliation and build the present and the future with reciprocal respect and in the sincere search for peace."

Benedict XVI also congratulated the Polish section of Vatican Radio, who will celebrate their 70th anniversary Monday. The Pope thanked the members of the Polish section for their "generous work," and gave them his apostolic blessing.