Holy Smoke

In Ukraine and China, a power-obsessed Vatican is betraying heroic Catholics

Text settings
CommentsShare

In this episode

Damian Thompson

Four million Christians in western Ukraine belong to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which since the end of the 16th century has adhered to a Byzantine rite while recognising the authority of the Pope. For this reason these Ukrainian Catholics are despised by the Russian Orthodox and its political masters: Stalin tried to force them to become Orthodox again and threw their leader, Cardinal Slipyi, into jail, where he remained from 1945 until 1963. 

And how was his heroism rewarded? Pope Paul VI denied him the title of Patriarch and, after Vatican II, the Catholic Church set about Westernising their traditions – for example, discouraging them from having married priests. Rome saw Greek-rite Catholics as an obstacle to reunion with Eastern Orthodoxy, and in 2016 Pope Francis met Putin's stooge Patriarch Kirill of Moscow in Havana, of all places, to issue a declaration that undermined the spiritual identity of this brave community. 

Does that sound familiar? It must ring a bell with underground Catholics in China. They were betrayed even more cynically by the Vatican's secret 2018 pact with Beijing, which herded them into the quasi-Christian services of the CCP's "Catholic" Church. 

The comparison between Rome's treatment of Ukrainian and Chinese Catholics is now inescapable, and in this week's Holy Smoke I discuss them with Fr Benedict Kiely of Nasarean.org, a leading advocate for persecuted Christians. Will the Pope boost the morale of Ukrainian Catholics by making their current leader, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, a cardinal like his predecessors? (Francis loves to withhold red hats from archbishops of major sees who don't sign up to his incoherent progressive agenda.) More importantly, will he grant Shevchuk the title of Patriarch? Given that Francis refused to join Western leaders in denouncing Russia's invasion of a sovereign state, just as he has kept silent about Chinese atrocities, I wouldn't hold your breath.