May 17, 2000
volume 11, no. 94
THE CHURCH IN RUSSIA Series INTRODUCTION|
During this "month of Mary" and the focus on Fatima with the beatifications on May 13th of the Fatima Shepherd Children Jacinta and Francisco Marto by His Holiness Pope John Paul II, and with the debut of the DailyCATHOLIC now being published daily in Russian to reach all parts of the former Iron Curtain, we present a special series written by Father Robert J. Fox, director of the Fatima Family Apostolate and editor of the full color Immaculate Heart Messenger. We are delighted to work with Father Robert Fox in bringing you this special series on Our Lady's plans for the conversion of Russia. If anyone knows the temperature of the Faith in the former Soviet Union it is Fr. Fox. These articles first appeared in earlier issues of his full-color magazine Immaculate Heart Messenger which Fr. Fox edits and publishes. To order a subscription or to find out about other materials such as books and tapes or about the upcoming 18th Annual National Marian Congress to be held on the weekend of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary on June 9-11 at the Shrine in Alexandria, South Dakota, call the toll-free number: 800-721-MARY or 800-213-5541.
It was not the first time the Vatican had made attempts in Russia. In 1926, only nine years after the Bolshevik bloody Revolution, the gigantic-sized dioceses, geographically speaking, of Migilev and Tiraspol were each divided into five apostolic administrations. Bishops were secretly consecrated then and almost as quickly arrested. Virtually all priests by 1939 had been killed or deported.
In an interview for television Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz told me that as a young man desiring to be a priest he had to go to Lithuania for seminary training and after ordination could not leave Lithuania for seven years. With Byelorussia's recently opened Polish-language Grodno seminary, former home territory to Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, and their training only 50 ordinands, Catholics there and elsewhere will have to continue to rely on Lithuania, Latvia and Poland for priests, which will be in greater demand. Archbishop Kondrusiewicz, speaking to me in a TV filming interview, said that being in Moscow only a few months, already at least 12 teenagers weekly were requesting membership in the Catholic Church. That was only the beginning, hardly time for the population to discover his presence in Moscow after over 70 years of restrictions and persecutions. The latest report the Messenger has received is that there are many young converts in Russia.
About 20 Jesuits are now working in the Soviet Union. Other religious orders are attempting to reopen branches. Local students are studying at Tome's papal-run Collegium Russicum, Poland's Catholic University of Lublin and other foreign institutions.
While there was enacted in October 1990 a conscience law by Moscow Supreme Soviet guaranteeing Church activities, there were still restrictions. There were still difficulties over Church property that had been confiscated.
As we prepared this report for the Messenger we learned that the pilgrimage of the Russians to Fatima last October was still producing fruits. The Portuguese Catholic radio decided to have a Christmas campaign to raise funds for the restoration of the second Catholic church of Moscow. I learned in Fatima in October 1991 that Archbishop Kondrusiewicz had only St. Louis Church and a few square feet for his office space in its sacristy. He told me he had no home of his own. Even if money were available it would be next to impossible at the moment to buy a home. He was living with a friend. It reminded me of my meeting the group of seven Latvian seminarians and their young priest in July 1990 in Fatima. I offered to find them money to print To Russia With Love if they would translate it into the Latvian language. They replied: "What good would the money do when we can't buy paper?"
The extremists, who believe that nothing has happened in the Soviet Union concerning freedom give no credit to the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in their minds. They believe that all is the big communist plot to dominate the entire world with Marxism. They are not informed of the real problems these souls are laboring under, even as freedom comes.
Thursday: part four Hail Mary, not Marx
May 17, 2000 |
volume 11, no. 94
THE CHURCH IN RUSSIA