orthodox church romaniaThe Persecution of the Church

Nobody can serve two masters

This is the first article in a series of three that depict how the communists in Romania plotted and attempted to destroy the Catholic, Greek-Catholic and Orthodox Churches. The three articles are part of the final section from The Stolen Church, called The Persecution of the Church.

The Greek-Catholics

In every country, the communists tried to found national churches through which to control the believers. The aim was to link all aspects of an individual’s life to the Party. However, despite their efforts they did not realise that they couldn’t exile God.

What happened in Romania was a repetition of a process that happened in Ukraine and other places under USSR, where bishops, priests and people of faith suffered because of their faith. The communists wanted to untie through force the Orthodox Church with the Catholic Church (and all its branches) because they were uncomfortable with the latter’s relationship with Rome.

In 1944, the Moscow Patriarch called all Greek-Catholics to convert and return to the Orthodox Church. Most refused and the persecutions began immediately. In 1946, thousands of Greek-Catholics were arrested and sent to gulags in Siberia, from where many never came back.

Between 1947 and 1959, many Greek-Catholics were killed or persecuted for their faith. A short list includes:

  • Bishop Stojka de Mukacev disappeared on 31 May 1943. His successor, bishop Theodor Romza, was beaten to death on 27 October 1947.
  • In Ukraine, Josyf Slipyi, the bishop of Lwow, was arrested on 11 April 1945 and sent to various prisons and forced labour camps until 1963 when he was freed from Siberia. Slipyi was later made Cardinal.
  • Bishop Nicetas Budka was arrested and died in prison in 1949 at Karaganda gulag.
  • Bishop Grigore Khomisin from Stanislav was arrested in 1945 and died in prison two years later.
  • Bishop Ivan Latisevski died a year after he was released from prison, in 1956.
  • Bishop Josafat Kotzilovski was arrested on 26 June 1946 and died in a prison in Kiev on 21 August 1947.
  • Bishop Grigore Lakota died in 1950 in Siberia.
  • Bishop Nicholas Charnetsky de Volyn spent a year in a gulag in Siberia.
  • Monsignor Peter Verhun died in a forced labour camp in 1957.
  • From Czechoslovakia, bishop Paul Goydych was arrested on 28 March 1950 and died in the same prison he spent the next ten years.
  • Bishop Bazol Hopko was arrested in 1950 and freed sixteen years later.
  • Bishop Basil Velychkovsky was detained between 1945 – 1955 and 1969 – 1972.

Nobody can serve two masters

In order to keep the power in Russia, Lenin imitated the tzars who subjugated the Orthodox Church, controlling its clergy and attempting to use religion as a mean of manipulation of the peasantry. The Orthodox Church suffered both under the tzars and the communists and this process was detailed in an open letter written in 1947 by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

In Romania, the Orthodox clergy was forced to follow an indoctrination programme. It was called: “The pastoral orientation of the clergy for prosperity and peace”.

Between 1946 – 1950, the communists forced many bishops into exile. The new Patriarch, Iustinian Marina, was the right hand of the communist regime. With his help the Orthodox Church was subjugated. Marina was a communist: in 1944, when the communist party was still illegal, Marina helped Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej to escape from prison. Dej later became prime-secretary within the Party.

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Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej

It was Marina who also led the oppression plan against the Greek-Catholics. He oversaw the imprisonment of Greek-Catholic priests and bishops in various monasteries. Marina used to say: “I have a knife and I am not afraid to use it”. The knife was the communist secret police: Securitatea.

There was another key bishop who helped the communists in their attempt to destroy the Church. His name was Nicolae Balan. He sent a letter to Alexei of Leningrad. In this letter, Balan stated:

“If Romania ever committed a mistake in the past, and if the country initially allied with Germany against Russia, it was due to the corruption of the Romanian people that dates to 1700, the year when the Romanian church tied itself with Rome”.

Balan was one of the best tools the communists had at their disposal to try and destroy the Greek-Catholics. He was hand in hand with Alexei, portraying the Vatican as a “tool of capitalism and an obstacle against peace and progress”.

Ratiu explains: “Because of the Church’s decline, the power of the state has become exacerbated, and the religious division weakened the role that religion played in Western Europe. This is one of the causes behind the moral void: man needs faith and this thirst is exploited with great care by communists”.

The next article will look at the plan of destroying the Christian churches.

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