Above: the Latin rite Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Moscow, which was restored and rebuilt after the fall of Soviet Communism.
Since the invasion of Ukraine by Putin in February this year, the Russian Catholic bishops have shown the courage incumbent upon successors of the Apostles. We must remember that our brethren in Russia, of the Latin and Greco-Slavonic rites, are a tiny minority who were viciously persecuted under the Soviets, and have slowly built back their churches and numbers over the past few generations.
As war propaganda has escalated in Russia, this has only increased the tension upon Catholics as direct criticism of the war is an illegal and chargeable offence. Faced with the invasion of Ukraine, the Russian bishops fearlessly called Russian politicians to their responsibility for aggression before God.
Consecration of Russia
With the March 25 consecration of Russian and Ukraine to Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart, it is clear that the Blessed Virgin has galvanised the Russian and Ukrainian Catholic bishops to lay down their life for their sheep. Tirelessly His Beatitude, Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk, who proclaimed that the Consecration would be “victory over evil,” continues daily to shepherd his flock, our Ukrainian Catholic brethren, in the face of invasion and the horrors of war. Meanwhile, Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Bishop Ihor Isichenko has led his entire diocese into the Catholic Church.
With the news of Putin’s latest mobilisation (something which has not happened in Russia since the World Wars!), the Russian Catholic bishops have released the most courageous and independent statement among all the churches and religious entities in the country, inspired by the Consecration:
Recognizing our impotence, we pray that we will live in the spirit of the consecration of Ukraine and Russia by Pope Francis to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in full hope for God’s care for His children and for His boundless mercy; the only way to live like this is to be filled with humility as peacekeepers and defenders of justice, as far as our gifts and circumstances of our lives allow us.
The Bishops quote the lament of Pius XII over war, and apply the Tradition of the Church to the horrors of the situation: the justice of war must be judged under the strict conditions of Catholic just war theory. Nevertheless, they cannot forbid the faithful from participating in the war, especially if they are drafted, but insist that the properly formed, Catholic conscience is the “holy of holies of man in which he is alone with God, and the true judgment of which he is always required to obey.”
At the risk of Russian state backlash, the Bishops call for the ‘conscientious objector’ clause in the Constitution of the Russian Federation to be respected. Finally, the bishops state unequivocally that “it is categorically impossible” for clergy and religious to participate in the war “in accordance with the oldest church rules and in accordance with applicable international conventions.”
For Anglo-American readers, the courage of this document may be difficult to fathom. Even in the most charged environment of war propaganda in western Europe and the Americas, citizens still have the right of free speech to criticise actions of the government.
However, this is not the case in Russia. One of my Russian Catholic sources described it as “hero-level” action in wartime.
As Putin launches a massive mobilisation, mainstream Russian media outlets are calling the invasion a “holy war” and comparing this moment to the Cuban [Nuclear] Missile Crisis of 1962:
“Meanwhile in Russia: top pro-Kremlin propagandist Vladimir Solovyov (who is Jewish) and his guest Yevgeny Satanovsky (who is an atheist) vehemently agree with Ramzan Kadyrov (a Muslim) that Russia is engaged in jihad against Ukraine and the West as a whole. Mind-numbing nonsense.” [Watch on Twitter”]
We fear that if Russian forces reach Kiev and western Ukraine, the largest Eastern Catholic church will be targeted once again, as it has been by Russian governments in the past. We thank God for the graces given to our prelates in Ukraine and Russia in the face of their warring countries.
As those of the Latin rite celebrate Christ the King, we are reminded of the words of Pius XI after World War I:
These manifold evils in the world were due to the fact that the majority of men had thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives; that these had no place either in private affairs or in politics: and we said further, that as long as individuals and states refused to submit to the rule of our Savior, there would be no really hopeful prospect of a lasting peace among nations.
The work of Catholic bishops in Ukraine and Russia has manifested 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 Ukraine Crisis
As November is upon us, in the Latin rite we pray for the dead. Therefore we wish to dedicate this month to praying for the dead of the Ukraine Crisis, from whatever nation they come. Soldiers and civilians too often die in war far away from the Sacraments and we pray for the courage of priests in this time of war.
We do this 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, rational analysis of this grave geopolitical crisis. To that end we will publish a number of articles looking at the situation past and present, attempting to encourage our readers to pray and think, as we have attempted to do from the beginning of this lamentable war.
We do this in the spirit of Fatima, for the conversion of Russia, on behalf of our brethren in Ukraine and Russia.