Russian Revolution centenary a time to recall martyrs to communism: Catholic Church in Moscow

(Photo: © Peter Kenny)St. Basil's Cathedral, now a museum, stands on Red Square next to the Kremlin in Moscow photographed on July 15, 2016.

During the upcoming centenary of the 1917 Russian revolution the actions of many people who acted in the overthrow of Tsarist Russia to impose a system that impacted the world for much of the 20th century called Communism will be much discussed.

But during the 100th anniversary of the revolution, Russia's Catholic Church is appealing to Western Christians to remember martyrs of Communist rule, Jonathan Luxmoore has written in The Tablet, a weekly Catholic newspaper in Britain.

"The sufferings in Soviet prisons and labor camps remain an issue for the whole of society here, not just religious communities," Monsignor Igor Kovalevsky, secretary-general of the Moscow-based Catholic Bishops' Conference was cited saying in The Tablet.

"But stories of witness and martyrdom are universally known and respected. Churches have been built to those who died for their faith, who deserve to be compared to the martyrs of Christianity's first centuries."

Luxmoore had written in The Catholic Herald on June 9, 2016 that eight decades from the Bolshevik Revolution to the collapse of the Iron Curtain brought waves of anti-religious repression comparable to the persecutions of the first centuries.

Kovalevsky spoke when some Russians are preparing to remember the events 100 years ago in October that changed the Russian landscape introducing the Soviet Union and 80 years of communist rule.

In The Tablet interview, the Catholic leader noted the work of Soviet dissidents such as Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) and Nadezhda Mandelstam (1899-1980) had become well known worldwide, but should not overshadow the tens of thousands of Christians who died for their beliefs.

Russian government data shows that at least 21 million people are believed to have died in repression, persecution and "terror famines" after 1917, including 106,000 Orthodox clergy shot during the 1937-8 Great Purge alone.

A total of 422 Catholic priests were executed, murdered or tortured to death during the period, along with 962 monks, nuns and laypeople, while all but two of the Catholic Church's 1,240 places of worship were forcibly turned into shops, warehouses, farm buildings and public toilets, writes Luxmoore.

Kovalevsky said the Catholic Church was ready to help commemorate all those who died, but was particularly concerned to preserve the memory of the Soviet Union's Christian victims.

Speaking earlier this year, Moscow Patriarch Kirill blamed the revolution's violence on "horrible crimes committed by the intelligentsia against God, the faith, their people and their country", and urged citizens to mark the centenary with "deep reflection and sincere prayer."

The daughter of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, Svetlana Stalin, who died peacefully at a nursing home in Wisconsin on November 2011 died a Catholic, Francis Philipps wrote in the Catholic Herald on Feb. 12, 2012.

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