Holy See–Soviet Union relations

Last updated
Soviet – Vatican relations
Holy See Soviet Union Locator.png
Flag of the Vatican City.svg
Holy See
Flag of the Soviet Union.svg
Soviet Union

Holy See–Soviet Union relations were marked by a long-standing persecution of the Catholic Church by the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, criticized throughout the Cold War. After a long period of resistance to atheistic propaganda beginning with Benedict XV and reaching a peak under Pius XII, intensified after 1945, the Holy See attempted to enter in a pragmatic dialogue with Soviet leaders during the papacies of John XXIII and Paul VI. In the 1990s, Pope John Paul II's diplomatic policies were cited as one of the principal factors that led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Catholic Church Christian church led by the Bishop of Rome

The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's oldest continuously functioning international institution, it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

Warsaw Pact international military alliance of Communist states

The Warsaw Pact, formally known as the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, was a collective defence treaty signed in Warsaw, Poland between the Soviet Union and seven Eastern Bloc satellite states of Central and Eastern Europe in May 1955, during the Cold War. The Warsaw Pact was the military complement to the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CoMEcon), the regional economic organization for the socialist states of Central and Eastern Europe. The Warsaw Pact was created in reaction to the integration of West Germany into NATO in 1955 per the London and Paris Conferences of 1954, but it is also considered to have been motivated by Soviet desires to maintain control over military forces in Central and Eastern Europe.

Contents

History

Heightened tensions: 1917 to 1958

Benedict XV

The end of World War I brought about the revolutionary development, which Benedict XV had foreseen in his first encyclical. With the Russian Revolution, the Vatican was faced with a new, so far unknown, situation. An ideology and government which rejected not only the Catholic Church but religion as a whole. “Some hope developed among the United Orthodox in Ukraine and Armenia, but many of the representatives there disappeared or were jailed in the following years. Several Orthodox bishops from Omsk and Simbirsk wrote an open letter to Pope Benedict XV, as the Father of all Christianity, describing the murder of priests, the destruction of their churches and other persecutions in their areas. [1]

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

Holy See episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, Italy

The Holy See, also called the See of Rome, is the apostolic episcopal see of the bishop of Rome, known as the Pope, ex cathedra the universal ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church, and a sovereign entity of international law. Founded in the 1st century by Saints Peter and Paul, by virtue of Petrine and Papal primacy according to Catholic tradition, it is the focal point of full communion for Catholic bishops and Catholics around the world organised in polities of the Latin Church, the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches, and their dioceses and religious institutes.

Ukraine Sovereign state in Eastern Europe

Ukraine, sometimes called the Ukraine, is a country in Eastern Europe. Excluding Crimea, Ukraine has a population of about 42.5 million, making it the 32nd most populous country in the world. Its capital and largest city is Kiev. Ukrainian is the official language and its alphabet is Cyrillic. The dominant religions in the country are Eastern Orthodoxy and Greek Catholicism. Ukraine is currently in a territorial dispute with Russia over the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014. Including Crimea, Ukraine has an area of 603,628 km2 (233,062 sq mi), making it the largest country entirely within Europe and the 46th largest country in the world.

Pius XI

Worried by the persecution of Christians in the Soviet Union, Pius XI mandated Berlin nuncio Eugenio Pacelli to work secretly on diplomatic arrangements between the Vatican and the Soviet Union. Pacelli negotiated food shipments for Russia, and met with Soviet representatives including Foreign Minister Georgi Chicherin, who rejected any kind of religious education, the ordination of priests and bishops, but offered agreements without the points vital to the Vatican. [2] Despite Vatican pessimism and a lack of visible progress, Pacelli continued the secret negotiations until Pius XI ordered them to be discontinued in 1927 because they generated no results and were dangerous to the Church if made public.

Berlin Capital of Germany

Berlin is the capital and largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,748,148 (2018) inhabitants make it the second most populous city proper of the European Union after London. The city is one of Germany's 16 federal states. It is surrounded by the state of Brandenburg, and contiguous with its capital, Potsdam. The two cities are at the center of the Berlin-Brandenburg capital region, which is, with about six million inhabitants and an area of more than 30,000 km², Germany's third-largest metropolitan region after the Rhine-Ruhr and Rhine-Main regions.

The "harsh persecution short of total annihilation of the clergy, monks, and nuns and other people associated with the Church," [3] continued well into the 1930s. In addition to executing and exiling many clerics, monks and laymen, the confiscating of Church implements "for victims of famine" and the closing of churches were common. [4] Yet according to an official report based on the Census of 1936, some 55 percent of Soviet citizens identified themselves openly as religious, while others possibly concealed their belief. [4]

Census Acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population

A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. This term is used mostly in connection with national population and housing censuses; other common censuses include agriculture, business, and traffic censuses. The United Nations defines the essential features of population and housing censuses as "individual enumeration, universality within a defined territory, simultaneity and defined periodicity", and recommends that population censuses be taken at least every 10 years. United Nations recommendations also cover census topics to be collected, official definitions, classifications and other useful information to co-ordinate international practice.

Pius XI described the lack of reaction to the persecution of Christians in such countries as the Soviet Union, Mexico, Germany and Spain as a "conspiracy of silence". In, 1937 the Pope issued the encyclical Divini Redemptoris, which was a condemnation of Communism and the Soviet regime." He did name a French Jesuit to go to the USSR and consecrate in secret Roman Catholic bishops. It was a failure, as most of them ended up in gulags or were otherwise killed by the communist regime.

Divini Redemptoris is an anti-communist encyclical issued by Pope Pius XI. It was published on 19 March 1937. In this encyclical, the pope sets out to "expose once more in a brief synthesis the principles of atheistic Communism as they are manifested chiefly in bolshevism".

Pius XII

The pontificate of Pius XII faced extraordinary problems. During the 1930s, the public protests and condemnations of his predecessors had not deterred the Soviet authorities to persecute all Christian Churches within the Soviet Union as hostile to Marxism–Leninism. The persecution of the Catholic Church was a part of an overall attempt to eradicate religion in the Soviet Union. In 1940, after Germany occupied the Western part of Poland, the Soviet Union annexed the Eastern part along with the Baltic Countries including predominantly Catholic Lithuania.

Two months after his election on May 12, 1939, in Singolari Animi, a papal letter to the Sacred Congregation of the Oriental Church, Pius XII reported again the persecutions of the Catholic faith in the Soviet Union. Three weeks later, while honouring the memory of Saint Vladimir on the 950th anniversary of his baptism, he welcomed Ruthenian priests and bishops and members of the Russian colony in Rome and prayed for those who suffer in their country, awaiting with their tears the hour of the coming of the Lord.

Persecution began at once, as large parts of Poland and the Baltic States were incorporated into the USSR. Almost immediately, the United Catholic Churches of Armenia, Ukraine and Ruthenia were attacked. While most Oriental Christians belong to an Orthodox Church, some like the Armenian Catholic Church, Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the Ruthenian Greek Catholic Church, are united with Rome which allowed them to keep their own Oriental liturgy and Church laws.

After the war, the Russian Orthodox Church was given some freedom by the government of Joseph Stalin, but not the Orthodox Oriental Churches which was united with Rome. Leaders of the Orthodox Oriental Churches faced intense pressure to break with Rome and unite with Moscow. Pope Pius addressed specifically the Ruthenian Catholic Church located in Ukraine. The encyclical Orientales omnes Ecclesias is a summary of the relations between the Uniate (Eastern) churches and Rome until the persecutions in 1945. [5] Some Ruthenians, resisting Polonisation, felt deserted by the Vatican and returned to the Russian Orthodox Church during the Pontificate of Pope Pius XI.

Dialogue: 1958 to 1978

John XXIII

During the brief papacy of John XXIII, there were attempts to reconcile with the Russian Orthodox Church in the hope of reducing tensions with the Soviet Union and contributing to peace in the world. The Second Vatican Council did not condemn Communism and did not even mention it, in what some have called a secret agreement between the Holy See and the Soviet Union. In Pacem in terris , John XXIII also sought to prevent nuclear war and tried to improve relations between the Soviet Union and the United States. He began a policy of dialogue with Soviet leaders in order to seek conditions in which Eastern Catholics could find relief from persecution. [6]

Paul VI

Pope Paul VI continued John XXIII's policy of dialogue with Soviet leaders in order to reduce persecutions against local Christians. His policy has been called Ostpolitik because it closely resembled similar policies that were being adopted by Western European nations. He received Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko and Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet Nikolai Podgorny in 1966 and 1967 in the Vatican.

Wojtyla and the Soviet Fall: 1978 to 1991

John Paul II has long been credited with being instrumental in bringing down communism in Catholic Eastern Europe by being the spiritual inspiration behind its downfall and a catalyst for a peaceful revolution in Poland. In February 2004, the Pope was even nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize honoring his life's work in opposing communism and helping to reshape the world after the fall of the Soviet Union. However, there has been much debate among historians about the realistic significance of John Paul II’s opposition to communism in the Soviet regime’s eventual downfall. While most scholars agree that Pope John Paul II’s intervention was an influential in ending the Polish Communist Party’s rule, there remains much disagreement in his role in the collapse of the USSR. Historians differ on their opinions on the significance of John Paul II’s influence as opposed to that of other economic and political factors. Thus, it is necessary to investigate the relative importance of John Paul II’s role in the collapse of Eastern European communism by analyzing the historical events beginning with his election to the papacy in 1978 and ending with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

On October 16, 1978, Karol Wojtyla was elected to the papacy. As the first-ever Polish pope and the first non-Italian to be elected to the papacy in over four hundred years, his election came as somewhat of a surprise to many Catholic scholars worldwide. Wojtyla chose to take the name John Paul II, after his predecessor, John Paul I, who was pope for barely a month before his death on September 29, 1978. Religious and political leaders alike wondered what it would mean for a citizen of a communist country to become pope. Poles, on the other hand, rejoiced at the news. [7]

Having lived under both the Nazi and the Soviet regimes, the new pope was unwavering in his opposition to both fascism and communism. While the Vatican had always officially opposed communism due to its atheism, Pope John Paul II lost no time in making this theological opposition into an active policy of confrontation. In his first encyclical, he pinpointed religious freedom as the paramount human right and argued that it was the duty of the Church to protect this right. Simultaneously, he rejected the general Cold War diplomacy of appeasement by removing or demoting church leaders who had enacted the policy of Ostpolitik, or quiet negotiation with communist leaders. [8] Instead, Pope John Paul II spoke out publicly against communism.

Despite warnings from Leonid Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, not to interfere in Poland, the new pope visited his homeland within the first year of his papacy. On June 2, 1979, John Paul II made his first papal visit to Poland. Three million people came to the capital to greet him. [9] The pope held Mass publicly in the Victory Square in Warsaw, which was usually reserved for state-sponsored events. In the Lenin Shipyard, John Paul II held Mass in memory of the Polish workers who had been killed in a 1970 strike, carrying a large wooden cross which some took to symbolize the burden of communism on the Polish people. [10] Historian John Lewis Gaddis identified the 1979 papal visit as the “trigger that led to communism’s collapse worldwide” due to its profound effect on the morale of the Polish people. [11]

The Solidarity trade union emerged in Poland in the year 1980 under the leadership of Lech Wałęsa. The emergence of this Catholic, anti-communist movement has been causally linked, by many historians, to Pope John Paul II’s first papal visit to Poland in 1979. Indeed, John Paul II publicly defended the strikers and ordered the Polish Church to aid them in a message to Stefan Wyszyński, archbishop of Warsaw and Gniezno. [12] Whereas most previous Polish revolutionary movements had been secular in nature, Solidarity centered on the religious symbols of the cross, the rosary, and the Madonna. [13] In January 1981, Walesa visited Rome and met with the pope for the first time, receiving his official recognition and support. [14]

On May 13, 1981, in St. Peter’s Square, Pope John Paul II was shot twice in the abdomen by would-be-assassin Mehmet Ali Agca. While many scholars have claimed that the assassination attempt was part of a conspiracy by the Soviet Union, this theory has never been proven. If true, the assassination attempt would reveal Soviet fears of the Pope’s influence in the Eastern Bloc and his assistance in the Polish Solidarity movement. However, the pope survived. [15]

Initially, the Polish communists resisted the Solidarity rebels, imprisoning many of the movement’s leaders between 1981 and 1983, but over the course of the 1980s, the movement gained more power and thus, more legitimacy. Consequently, in 1989, round-table talks were held between the leaders of Solidarity, the Soviet Communists, and the Catholic Church. In 1990, Walesa was elected president of Poland and began large-scale market reforms. By 1992, Soviet troops had begun to leave Poland. [16] This trend was paralleled by demonstrations and revolts in several other satellite states.

There has been much speculation by historians about the relationship between Pope John Paul II and American President Ronald Reagan. [17] The two leaders kept up a regular letter correspondence and met in Rome in both June 1982 and June 1987. This interaction has caused many historians to believe that the cooperation between the leaders strengthened the anti-communist cause. [18] However, other historians, like George Weigel, have argued that both men were able to make their own individual political achievements. According to this view, the United States, under the leadership of President Reagan presented an economic challenge to the Soviet Union, which was entirely independent of Vatican influence. [19] Therefore, Reagan’s role in the collapse of the Soviet economy may have been more influential than that of Pope John Paul II.

On December 1, 1989, the pope met with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. It was the first time that a Catholic pope had met with a Soviet leader. The two leaders agreed to establish diplomatic relations between the Vatican and the Soviet Union. Gorbachev also pledged to allow greater religious freedom within the Soviet Union. Many saw the meeting as a symbolic end to the philosophical conflict between the Soviet Union and the Vatican. [20] It certainly showed a growing willingness on both sides to cooperate.

Even though the pope was primarily a religious leader, his leadership also had significant political consequences. [21] John Paul II clearly used his Polish identity and connections to bring about the collapse of the nation’s communist regime. [22] While the intervention of Pope John Paul II was undoubtedly an essential factor in the ending of communism in Poland, it is less clear how significant the pope’s leadership was in the rest of Eastern Europe and within the Soviet Union itself. [11] The efforts of anti-communist leaders, such as Pope John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan did not make the fall of the Soviet Union inevitable. However, these leaders did hasten the end of the Cold War and the fall of communism, particularly in Eastern Europe. [23]

See also

Related Research Articles

Pope John Paul II 264th Pope of the Catholic Church, saint

Pope John Paul II was the head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 1978 to 2005.

August Hlond Catholic cardinal.

August Hlond was a Polish cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, who was Archbishop of Poznań and Gniezno in 1926 and Primate of Poland. He was then appointed as the Archbishop of Gniezno and Warsaw in 1946.

Agostino Casaroli Catholic cardinal

Agostino Casaroli was an Italian Catholic priest and diplomat for the Holy See, who became Cardinal Secretary of State. He was the most important figure behind the Vatican's efforts to deal with the persecution of the Church in the nations of the Soviet bloc after the Second Vatican Council.

History of the papacy aspect of history

The history of the papacy, the office held by the pope as head of the Roman Catholic Church, according to Catholic doctrine, spans from the time of Peter to the present day.

Redemptor hominis is the name of the first encyclical written by Pope John Paul II. It lays a blueprint for his pontificate in its exploration of contemporary human problems and especially their proposed solutions found in a deeper understanding of the human person. The encyclical was promulgated on 4 March 1979, less than five months after his installation as pope.

The biopic Have No Fear: The Life of Pope John Paul II explains in biographical form the life story of the late head of the Roman Catholic church, Pope John Paul II.

After the October Revolution of November 7, 1917 there was a movement within the Soviet Union to unite all of the people of the world under Communist rule. This included the Eastern bloc countries as well as the Balkan States. Communism as interpreted by Vladimir Lenin and his successors in the Soviet government required the abolition of religion and to this effect the Soviet government launched a long-running campaign to eliminate religion from society. Since some of these Slavic states tied their ethnic heritage to their ethnic churches, both the peoples and their churches were targeted by the Soviets.

Orientales omnes Ecclesiae is an encyclical of Pope Pius XII to the faithful of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. It commemorates the three hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Union of Brest.

Pope Pius XII and Russia describes relations of the Vatican with the Soviet Union, Russia, the Orthodox Church, United Oriental Churches resulting in the eradication of the Church in most parts of the Soviet Union during the Stalinist era. Most persecutions of the Church occurred during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII.

Persecutions against the Catholic Church took place throughout the pontificate of Pope Pius XII (1939-1958). Pius' reign coincided with the Second World War, the commencement of the Cold War and the accelerating European decolonisation. During this time, the Catholic Church faced persecution under Fascist and Communist governments.

Pope Pius XII and Poland includes Church relations from 1939–1958. Pius XII became Pope on the eve of the Second World War. The invasion of predominantly Catholic Poland by Nazi Germany in 1939 ignited the conflict and was followed soon after by a Soviet invasion of the Eastern half of Poland, in accordance with an agreement reached between the dictators Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler. The Catholic Church in Poland was about to face decades of repression, both at Nazi and Communist hands. The Nazi persecution of the Catholic Church in Poland was followed by a Stalinist repression which was particularly intense through the years 1946–1956. Pope Pius XII's policies consisted in attempts to avoid World War II, extensive diplomatic activity on behalf of Poland and encouragement to the persecuted clergy and faithful.

Vatican and Eastern Europe (1846–1958)

The Vatican and Eastern Europe (1846–1958) describes the relations from the pontificate of Pope Pius IX (1846–1878) through the pontificate of Pope Pius XII (1939–1958). It includes the relations of the Church State (1846–1870) and the Vatican (1870–1958) with Russia (1846–1918), Lithuania (1922–1958) and Poland (1918–1958).

The Eastern canonical reforms of Pope Pius XII were the several reforms of Oriental canon law and the Codex Iuris Canonici Orientalis, applying mainly to the Oriental Churches united with the Latin Church in communion with the Roman Pontiff. The Holy See's policy in this area had always two objectives, the pastoral care of approximately ten million Christians united with Rome and the creation of positive ecumenical signals to the two-hundred and fifty million Orthodox Christians outside the Church of Rome.

Holy See–Russia relations Diplomatic relations between Holy See and Russia

Holy See–Russia relations is the bilateral relationship between the Holy See and Russia. The Holy See has an Apostolic Nunciature in Moscow. Russia has a permanent representative to the Holy See based in Rome.

Eastern Catholic victims of Soviet persecutions include bishops and others among the tens of thousands of victims of Soviet persecutions from 1918 to approximately 1980, under the state ideology of Marxist–Leninist atheism.

Pope John Paul IIs political views

Pope John Paul II's political views were considered conservative on issues relating to reproduction and the ordination of women during his 26-year reign as pope of the Roman Catholic Church and sovereign of Vatican City. A series of 129 lectures given by John Paul during his Wednesday audiences in Rome between September 1979 and November 1984 were later compiled and published as a single work entitled ‘Theology of the Body’, an extended meditation on the nature of human sexuality. He also extended it to condemnation of abortion, euthanasia and virtually all uses of capital punishment, calling them all a part of the "culture of death" that is pervasive in the modern world, advocating instead what he understood to be a "culture of life". He campaigned for world debt forgiveness and social justice.

The relationship between Pope Benedict XV and Russia occurred in a very special context, that of the 1917 Russian Revolution. The seizure of power by the Bolshevik revolutionaries unleashed an unprecedented wave of persecutions against the Roman Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church, who were forced to cooperate during a time of distress.

The Roman Catholic Church in the 20th century had to respond to the challenge of increasing secularization of Western society and persecution resulting from great social unrest and revolutions in several countries. It instituted many reforms, particularly in the 1970s under the Vatican II Council, in order to modernize practices and positions. In this period, Catholic missionaries in the Far East worked to improve education and health care, while evangelizing peoples and attracting numerous followers in China, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan.

The Polish Anti-Religious Campaign was initiated by the communist government in Poland which, under the doctrine of Marxism, actively advocated for the disenfranchisement of religion and planned atheisation. To this effect the regime conducted anti-religious propaganda and persecution of clergymen and monasteries. As in most other Communist countries, religion was not outlawed as such and was permitted by the constitution, but the state attempted to achieve an atheistic society.

Anti-Catholicism in the Soviet Union, including the Soviet Anti-Catholic Campaigns, refer to those concerted efforts taken by the Soviet Union to defame, undermine, or otherwise decrease or limit the role of the Catholic Church in Europe.

References

Notes
  1. Schmidlin III, 308
  2. (Hansjakob Stehle, Die Ostpolitik des Vatikans, Piper, München, 1975, p.139-141
  3. Riasanovsky 617
  4. 1 2 Riasanovsky 634
  5. Giovannetti, 112
  6. Dennis J. Dunn, "The Vatican's Ostpolitik: Past and Present." Journal of International Affairs (1982) 36#2 : 247-255. online
  7. Constantine Pleshakov, There Is No Freedom Without Bread! 1989 and the Civil War That Brought Down Communism, (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009), 82–85.
  8. Pleshakov, 85–86.
  9. Pleshakov, 86–87.
  10. Arragon Perrone, "Pope John Paul II’s Role in the Collapse of Poland’s Communist Regime: Examining a Religious Leader’s Impact on International Relations," University of Connecticut (2012), http://digitalcommons.uconn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1244&context=srhonors_theses (accessed May 10, 2014), 34–36.
  11. 1 2 Perrone, 13.
  12. Pleshakov, 103-07.
  13. Pleshakov, 110.
  14. Pleshakov, 112.
  15. Perrone, 36–37.
  16. BBC News, "Poland Timeline." Last modified January 18, 2012. Accessed May 10, 2014. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/country_profiles/1054724.stm.
  17. Perrone, 14–15.
  18. Perrone, 15.
  19. Perrone, 14–16.
  20. Haberman, Clyde. "THE KREMLIN AND THE VATICAN; GORBACHEV VISITS POPE AT VATICAN; TIES ARE FORGED." New York Times, December 2, 1989.
  21. Perrone, 16.
  22. Perrone, 17.
  23. Perrone, 18.