Saturday, October 16, 2010

For years and years...

...many prayed for Russia, for the Christians there who were suffering under an atheistic regime, for those in the Gulag, for those receiving the grisly attentions of the KGB in indescribable conditions in brutal prisons...

We prayed for the coversiuon of Russia. It's happening. Today, in Westminster Cathedral Hall, we heard from a priest who is now working in Siberia, helping the survivors of the brutal labour-camps, collecting together their pitiful memories, bringing people together the and building up a Christian community...in his new church a chapel is dedicated to those who suffered and died, with a icon honouring the Christian martyrs of the 20th century. You can read about some of this in his book "Martyrs of Magadan" - info here.

It was an extraordinary experience to sit in a packed, hushed hall as Fr Michael Shields spoke. He is an American priest who after a 40-day retreat felt a special call to go to Siberia.

In this very hall, some 35 years ago, I heard speakers rallying us to the cause of what we then the "Church of Silence" in the USSR. We were told then that some day we would learn of the martyrs and heroes who had perished in the grim labour-camps of the Soviet Union. We knew that in some way, somehow, under God's providence, the Church would break through. And now the old Soviet Communist era has gone...and the Church sends new missionaries, gathers the fragments, starts to bind the wounds, looks out for the poor and disposessed and confused and muddled, tackles the new and emerging problems even as she honours the sacrifices and valour of those who suffered under the old...

And while all that happens, the CHurch must also face other problems, other issues elsewhere in the world.Today's meeting also heard from the courageous Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala from Sudan. Christians in southern Sudan have been persecuted for years and the country in its present form has never known peace. He reminded us of Britain's historic commitments in Sudan - we left in the 1950s. That jolted me. Are we Catholics in Britain doing now to help Catholics there? He begged for our prayers and for our support for the work of the Church - which is the only institution offering a hope of education, decent medical care, and basic welfare for the Christian people of the south.

And there was more. We heard about the revival of the Church in Ukraine - again, once dominated by an atheistic Communist government, with crushing penalties for infringing its cruel antiu-Church laws. Now, 50 per cent of the population attends Church at Easter...

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, the Church faces the new/old problems of militant Islam...

This meeting, organised by Aid to the Church in Need, was taking place on a day when various other major Catholic events were happening in London,including a popular Rosary Rally, offering attractive alternatives for a sunny October Saturday. But the Hall was packed and more people crammed in during the afternoon, filling every available chair, standing at the back, hurrying into the gallery. Over 450 tickets were sold before the day, and more people arrived seeking entrance at the door.

Much of what we heard was solemn and challenging - but the day was inspirational and hugely uplifting. What was impressive too, was the massive support and concern for the persecuted Church around the world, at a time when we seem to have plenty to think about with regard to the Church in our own country. With this sort of commitment, there is cause for hope...

5 comments:

Alyson said...

Your post resonates with me today. On Friday we attended a talk on the Message of Fatima and the relevance of it today, relating to the part it plays in the story of Salvation.
One of the requests from Our Blessed Mother, was to pray for the conversion of Russia.
Let us use the powerful weapon of the Rosary to pray for the intercession of Our Lady for those being persecuted in one way or another because of their faith today. The Apostolate of Mary presentation is well worth consideration, and the detail quite awe-inspiring.

Alyson said...

Correction: The WORLD APOSTOLATE OF FATIMA is the organisation to get all th efats about Fatima from.

Anonymous said...

And now, the ideology that produced all the oppression in the East is alive and well in the West. When....when will the west awake to its perilous position?

God controls all things, maybe it is His way of purging the Western Nations.

vetusta ecclesia said...

I find it hard to agree. Back then when we were praying for "pagan" Russia we were never made aware of what the R. Orthodox Ch. was doing, or indeed that in it the Christian Church existed in Russia at all. They made mistakes and compromises. Look at our English Catholic Church today and say that they don't. At the Synod of the Middle Eastern Churches this week they have mentioned the destructive effect of Latin Christians evangelising in paralell with native uniates. The Latin Church should keep out of Russia.

Manny said...

I was in Kazakhstan (a former Soviet country now free and independent) this summer and I went to a couple of Russian Orthodox Churches and was really touched with their expression of faith. No question that Christianity is making a huge comeback in what once were athiest Soviet block people. It has made me research the Eastern Orthodox churches and their doctrine. My goodness, the differences with Roman Catholicism are miniscule. They are much closer to R.C. than any of the Protestant denominations. I do hope some day we can join back together in one Church. R.C. and Eastern Orthodoix are the historical true church and it's a tragedy that we had to split.