Posted by: Fr Chris | August 18, 2011

The greatest enemy to freedom and belief almost made a comeback 20 years ago

In August 1991, Pope John Paul II was celebrating a Byzantine Liturgy at our shrine of the Weeping Mother of God icon at Mariapocs, Hungary. He had come for the Dormition/ Assumption pilgrimage, and 800,000 people were there. Shocking news had come: a coup was attempting to depose Gorbachev in the USSR and bring back a hardline Soviet Union. All of  Eastern Europe was on edge, as were the republics in the USSR and most of the planet.  Since our altars face east, the Pope was praying toward the USSR as he prayed the Eucharist, and also for the intercession of the Mother of God that the coup would fail.

Commemorative Medal from Papal Visit, showing Weeping Icon 

In the end, the plotters failed –  partly due to their poor planning, partly to popular resistance in Moscow itself, and, I think, partly due to a lot of prayers that stormed Heaven during the crisis. At stake was the future of Russia, the future of communism, the future of the world – would a revived old-style USSR emerge and strike down the emerging democracies in the occupied Baltic States of the USSR and Eastern Europe? Would the nuclear missiles be commanded by a neo-communist block of men willing to frighten the world with their power?

As we now know, it ended well, amazingly so. The world heaved a sigh of relief – and 20 years later, it seems very few remember how close we came to the edge.  Maybe that’s a good thing: it means that Soviet communism is really gone. But its rotten legacy has not been really dealt with: especially in Russia.

The former Soviet republics which are now states range from personality cult states like Belarus to the bright lights of the Baltic, to the sometimes bewildering mix of Central Asia. A prescient article from Radio Free Europe (yes, it still exists and does a bang-up job of reporting) is available here:

As for my readers, I suggest some heartfelt prayers of thanks to the Virgin Mary for her intercession are surely in order this anniversary.



  1. It is the most amazing thing that Communism fell without warfare and all of the death, destruction and evil that come from war. Prayer really does work. Guns and bombs don’t always.

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