Posted by: Fr Chris | May 23, 2011

Surprises out of Russia and my desk!

Metropolitan Hilarion, the spokesman for the Russian Patriarchate of Moscow, has been in the news quite a bit. What he says is very important. He is the Russian Orthodox bishop of Vienna, is well learned, a musical composer of great note, and really the face of the Russian Church to Catholicism and the West.

He has dismayed Catholics by his refusal to condemn the 1946 so-called “Sobor of Lvov” by which the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was destroyed on Soviet territory.  At this assembly, two former Greek Catholic priests who had been hastily ordained as Orthodox bishops and another apostate priest led a council of clergy and laity, to condemn the Catholic hierarchy and unite with Moscow, while the legitimate bishops were being tortured and deported to camps in Siberia. Obviously this was a scandal. But Bp. Hilarion still considers it legal, uses the Russian name of “Lvov” instead of the Ukrainian name “L’viv” when discussing it, and that it was legitimate because straying members could always come home to Orthodoxy. The fact that the Kyivan Ukrainian Catholics had never been part of the Moscow patriarchate was forgotten. You can read a good analysis of this by Dr Sorokowoski of the Ukrainian Catholic University at

Why does this matter?  Precisely because Bishop Hilarion is well-educated, well-spoken, and an ecumenist, it is disturbing to Eastern Catholics to see that we can still be written off as wayward “‘Uniates.” Ecumenical dialogue just got harder.

But on another point, I am in total agreement with the bishop, and so should all westerners: the demographic disaster that Russia faces. Without a turnaround soon, Russia will be a smaller country in population, and will find it difficult to manage its vast territory:

For us in the liberal West,  I think it should be a wake-up call. The ongoing damage from contraception and what it does to marriages and relationships, the horror of abortion on demand, and the fact that the US is barely holding its own in population growth solely because of Hispanic and Asian immigration, should make thoughtful people want to spread the word: selfishness and the culture of death are going to lead all of us to an unhappy future, and darned soon.

On a brighter note: check out this site of the Catholic parishes in the Russian Far East. My friends went there back in 1991 and offered the first Mass since the arrest of the last priest, on the steps of the locked Cathedral of Vladivostok. What they and their parishioners, and fellow missioners, have achieved is truly the work of God.

Here is a charity well worth helping: they not only have reopened long-closed parishes, they have opened new ones; established pro-life activities which support the mothers and babies; brought the history of the repressed to light; provided women’s support; and now are seeing vocations to priesthood and religious life! It’s a fascinating story, and the English translation of a local Russian historian’s work “Harsh Vineyard” brings right to your living room. You can order it via Amazon.  It covers the tsarist era and right down to  2007.

Amazon carries a book which gives the first English history of Magadan, that dreadful place where Stalin sent tens of thousands, with interviews of the survivors who still live there, and whose children and grandchildren have been discriminated against as descendants of enemies of the people. Fr Michael Shields founded Nativity of the Lord parish, and reached out to these survivors, who are called “Repressed Persons” as they were punished during communism for things that they never did.  Martyrs of Magadan is the title.

And my books? I hired a grad student in philosophy, a young Catholic man who attends our CAFE group, to work with me this summer. Right now I am getting a lecture on  the history of the Byzantine-Ruthenian Catholic Church, 9th century to today, which will be presented in a few weeks at our annual conference. Once I am done with that, we will move on to helping me finish Volume 2 of The Forgotten, and I hope another book on the Eastern Catholics under the communist regimes of Eastern Europe 1945-1990. If I can get an edited version of Finding a Hidden Church out, it will feature corrected textual mistakes (the price of rushing) and new information.

Hmm – this contributes to why I am so tired!

God bless and stay in touch:

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