Russian Catholic bishops courageous under Putin


Above: The Latin Rite Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Moscow, restored and rebuilt after the fall of Soviet Communism.

Since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in February this year, Russian Catholic bishops have shown the courage that befits the successors of the Apostles. We must remember that our brethren in Russia, of Latin and Greco-Slavic rites, are a tiny minority who were violently persecuted under the Soviets and have slowly rebuilt their churches and numbers over the past few generations.

As war propaganda has intensified in Russia, it has only increased the tension on Catholics, as direct criticism of the war is an illegal and prosecutable offense. Faced with the invasion of Ukraine, the Russian bishops fearlessly called Russian politicians to their responsibility of aggression before God.

Consecration of Russia

With the March 25 consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Our Lady, it is clear that the Blessed Virgin has galvanized Russian and Ukrainian Catholic Bishops to give his life for his sheep. His Beatitude, Patriarch Sviatoslav Chevtchouk, who proclaimed that the Consecration would be “the victory over evil”, tirelessly continues daily to shepherd his flock, our Ukrainian Catholic brothers, in the face of invasion and the horrors of war. Meanwhile, Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Bishop Ihor Isichenko led his entire diocese into the Catholic Church.

With the news of Putin’s latest mobilization (something that hasn’t happened in Russia since the World Wars!), Russian Catholic Bishops have issued the most courageous and independent statement among all churches and religious entities country, inspired by the Consecration:

Recognizing our powerlessness, we pray that we live in the spirit of the consecration of Ukraine and Russia by Pope Francis to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in the full hope of God’s care for his children and his unlimited mercy; the only way to live that way is to be humbled as peacekeepers and upholders of justice, as our gifts and the circumstances of our lives permit.

The bishops cite Pius XII’s lament on war and apply Church Tradition to the horrors of the situation: justice in war must be judged under the strict conditions of Catholic just war theory. Nevertheless, they cannot prohibit the faithful from participating in war, especially if they are conscripted, but insist that the well-formed Catholic conscience is the “holy of holies of man in which he is alone with God, and whose true judgment he is always bound to obey.

At the risk of a reaction from the Russian State, the bishops demand that the “conscientious objector” clause of the Constitution of the Russian Federation be respected. Finally, the bishops state unequivocally that “it is categorically impossible” for clergy and religious to participate in war “in accordance with the most ancient ecclesiastical rules and in accordance with applicable international conventions”.

For English-American readers, the courage of this document may be difficult to comprehend. Even in the most war propaganda-laden environment in Western Europe and the Americas, citizens still have the right to speak out freely to criticize government actions.

However, this is not the case in Russia. One of my Russian Catholic sources described it as “hero-level” wartime action.

As Putin launches a massive mobilization, mainstream Russian media call the invasion a “holy war” and compare the moment to the Cuban situation. [Nuclear] Missile crisis of 1962[1]:

We fear that if Russian forces reach kyiv and western Ukraine, the largest Eastern Catholic Church will be targeted again, as it has been by Russian governments in the past. We thank God for the graces granted to our prelates in Ukraine and Russia in the face of their countries at war.

While those of the Latin rite celebrate Christ the King, we remember the words of Pius XI after the First World War:

These multiple evils in the world were due to the fact that the majority of men had driven Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives; that these had no place either in private affairs or in politics: and we have said further that so long as individuals and States refused to submit to the rule of our Saviour, there would be no a truly promising prospect of a lasting peace among nations.

The work of the Catholic bishops of Ukraine and Russia has shown that Christ is King over the nations. Let all submit to His will, which alone will bring peace and justice.

November: Pray for the dead of the Ukrainian crisis

As November approaches, in the Latin Rite we pray for the dead. This is why we wish to dedicate this month to praying for the dead of the Ukrainian crisis, whatever their nationality. Soldiers and civilians too often die in war far from the sacraments and we pray for the courage of priests in this time of war.

We do so through this intercession of our patroness, Our Lady of Fatima under her Russian icon:

As violent tensions escalate, as Catholics we must encourage a sober and rational analysis of this grave geopolitical crisis. To this end, we will publish a number of articles examining the past and present situation, attempting to encourage our readers to pray and reflect, as we have attempted to do since the beginning of this dismal war.

We do this in the spirit of Fatima, for the conversion of Russia, in the name of our brothers in Ukraine and Russia.

TS Flanders
Halloween, MMXXII

[1] The big letters on the backdrop of this video say “Caribbean [Cuban Missile] Crisis 2.0.

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