Why Stalin Banned Ukrainian Uniatism

On the 30th Anniversary of the Open Denomination of Nazism

The Uniate “Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church” (UGCC) celebrates the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the official registration of its communities in the USSR. This agreement was reached at a meeting between the Pope and Gorbachev on December 1st 1989, but today it is presented in Ukraine as a “triumph of justice”, a call of the Ukrainian spirit, and a victory of the Uniate faith over the sinister Moscow prohibitions, etc. In fact, neither the spirit nor faith here has anything. It’s much more grounded and unsightly.

“Soviet authorities given to us from God …”

We will not prove once again the obvious fact that the UGCC served the Fuhrer faithfully during the whole period of Hitler’s occupation. Yes, fascists all over Europe were assisted by representatives of different faiths and sometimes whole dioceses, but a whole “church”… Thus, the head of the 2nd Department of the Abwehr Erwin von Lahousen noted: “Cooperation between Metropolitan [A. Sheptitsky, photoed below with a “Swastika of Merit” badge] and his entourage is a bright example of the use of the wide possibilities of the Church in the interests of the Abwehr (emphasis is added by me from here on – D.S.)”. The SS Sturmbannführer and head of the Department of the General Directorate of Imperial Security Karl Neuhaus confirmed: “Throughout the war, the German government authorities had close contact with, and the full support of, the Uniate Church in Poland and Ukraine… This was one of the rare cases when representatives of the Church voluntarily, directly participated in the SS organisation.”

The reincarnation (next) of Sheptitsky happened on the third day after the liberation of Lvov, sorry for the tautology, from the “victorious German liberation army”. On July 29th 1944 he organised a large reception for his clergy on the occasion of his 79th birthday, where he reported that the Soviet government had changed its “former hostile” attitude towards religion: “Theological seminary is being restored, and the theological academy in Lvov is being restored. The military greets priests on the streets. Is this not proof of the Soviet government’s respect for religion?”

Sheptitsky repeatedly made such revelations at diocesan gatherings. In conversation with the Acting Commissioner of the Council for Religious Worship under the Council of People’s Commissars of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic S.T. Danilenko he confirmed: “I have such Sobors every Thursday. So I taught them how to be grateful and obedient to the Soviet authorities, sent to us by God, and the clergy with sincerity perceived and perceives my teachings.

“You should have seen how Metropolitan Andrey spoke in front of the Sobor of clergy, which he went to every Thursday before his illness,” testified protopriest Gavriil Kostelnik. “The speech is passionate, the eyes of passion with their own words sparkle, well, a real Bolshevik!”

In the speech of Sheptitsky at the festive session of the Sobor of the Uniate Clergy on September 7th 1944, according to the historian of the Union of Lvov and Professor V.I. Petrushko, “it was also stated a lot and clearly that in the religious policy of the Soviet government during the war period compared to 1939-1941 there were great changes and the Bolsheviks stopped the persecution of the Church.”

Regarding the part of the clergy that continued the spiritual guardianship of the Banderists who had settled in the forests, the head of the Uniates replied to Podpolkovnik Danilenko: “Judge such people yourself, and I will condemn them, because Banderism is a harmful phenomenon that needs to be fought. If you want, I will send my priests into the woods so that they will persuade these blind people to stop fighting the Soviet government and return to peaceful work”.

Let us remember here Sheptitsky’s words about the ministers who left with the Germans: “Concerning the priests who fled with the occupiers, I think of them in the same way military chiefs think of soldiers who leave their post. I issued an order prohibiting priests from leaving their parishes and fleeing with the Germans.”

On October 10th 1944 Sheptitsky wrote a message addressed to Stalin: “These bright events and the tolerance with which you treat our Church have aroused the hope in our Church that it, like all the people, will find in the USSR under your leadership full freedom of work and development in well-being and happiness.”

He planned to deliver the appeal personally in Moscow at the head of the Uniate delegation. But on November 1st 1944 he died. The KGB of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic received information that “Metropolitan Andrey Sheptitsky had been poisoned for his pro-Soviet sentiments and for his initiative to reunite the Greek Catholic Church with the Orthodox Church,” but no direct evidence was found.

The delegation headed by Sheptitsky’s brother Kliment (exarch of the apostolic exarchate of Russia) was received by the Chairman of the Council for Religious Cults Polyansky. The NKVD held a meeting of Uniate ministers with the Generals Sudoplatov, Fedotov, and Leontiyev. It was about the relationship of Uniatism with the Banderists who continued to operate in Galicia. The guests were going to discuss in Moscow much more common issues: dioceses and candidates for bishops; church property; exemption from recruitment into the Red Army of the Uniate clergy; the system of theological education, etc. “In addition, the delegation had the task of familiarising itself with all the latest Soviet legislation on Churches, as well as with the principles in the field of relations between the State and the Church.”

In other words, the Uniates were far from thinking that the authorities intended to eliminate their denomination. And the Bolsheviks, returning to Galicia in 1944, did not intend to do so, as is evidenced by the instruction of the KGB of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic: “Soviet power will treat the Uniate Church and its clergy on the basis of loyalty on their part and loyalty to the Motherland, as its citizens, i.e. ‘the measure you will use to measure will be used to measure you…’ Loyal people will be given full freedom to satisfy their religious needs, as is provided for in the Constitution of the USSR.”

However, it should be noted that there were no bishops in the delegation.

“Misfortune along the way”

Sheptitsky’s probable successor Josyf Slipyj refused to go to Moscow with a too ridiculous excuse: he “may be arrested there” (as if in Lvov he couldn’t); “There may be an aviation disaster” or “misfortune along the way” (a monk is afraid of moving into “eternal life”?). “The Greek Catholic episcopate, led by Metropolitan Slipyj, gave more and more reasons to doubt his loyalty by the beginning of 1945,” wrote Professor Petrushko. “As early as November 1944 Slipyj was visited by members of the Emergency State Commission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes, who invited the Uniate Metropolitan to add his signature underneath the conclusion on the atrocities of Hitler’s Nazis in Lvov, but the First Hierarch of Greek Catholics in polite form refused to do so… Slipyj was more worried about other problems. At a meeting with Danilenko, he said: ‘The most important issue, the resolution of which cannot satisfy me, is the question of the seal for the Metropolitan.’ Josyf Slipyj was unhappy with the order of the authorities to remove from his official title the mention of the city of Kamenets-Podolsky. Moreover, he laid claim to include in the title of head of the Uniate Church the name ‘Metropolitan of Kiev’.”

The refusal to condemn the crimes of their recent benefactors (and this in the context of the ongoing war with them), along with the brazen making of knowingly impossible to satisfy demands, once again demonstrated the more than confident “well-being” of Uniatism.

“We kept silent about our attitude towards the occupiers for the reason that we were afraid to incite repression against our representatives, i.e., against the priests of the Greek Catholic Church and believers on the territory occupied by the Germans,” explained Slipyj to Sergey Danilenko. “We were afraid that after our speech against the occupiers they would use repression against our people.”

“And you are not afraid that we have the right to regard your silence on the issue of one’s attitude towards the occupiers as solidarity with them and to start repression against the representatives of the Greek Catholic Church who are on our territory?” said Sergey Danilenko, trying to return his interlocutor to reality.

“We didn’t think about it,” said Slipyj.

“It turns out that, being afraid of German repression against the representatives of the Greek Catholic Church who are on their territory, you actually joined if not the Germans themselves, then their accomplices, for what the clergy found themselves on the territory occupied by the Germans? All these are priests of the Greek Catholic Church who actively helped the Germans – traitors, betrayers, abettors. So it is necessary to consider them from both the civil and church point of view. After all, according to church canons, how should priests who fled their parishes be considered? They should be banned in the priesthood and deprived of rank if they fled without the permission of bishops. And you not only did not do this, but you are still afraid that the Germans can arrest them because of the fact that you, sitting on Soviet territory, will reveal your attitude to those atrocities that occurred during the occupation in Ukraine,” summed up the representative of the authorities.

However, Slipyj refused to take any measures to reprimand his spiritual children – Banderists who continued the terror in Galicia and Volyn.

“It turns out that you actually associate yourself with the Banderist evil,” the head of the Uniates Danilenko warned more than transparently. “More than that, you condone this evil, especially since if we take into account dozens of cases of help being actively rendered by priests to Ukrainian-German nationalists from OUN and UPA, agents of German intelligence, and the Gestapo.”

However, he signed the sentence of the Uniates… Pope of Rome.

Against the background of Slipyj’s claims that the reunification of Orthodox and Uniates is possible “only under the leadership of the Pope” (and this is in 1944!), Pope Pius XII gave a Christmas Speech, which was a “spiritual foreword” to Churchill’s Sinews of Peace Speech, which marked the beginning of the Cold War against the USSR.

Already in July 1945, Ivan Grynokh, former chaplain of the Nachtigall Battalion and then of the SS “Galicia” Division, was twice received by the commander of the American occupation forces in Europe, Eisenhower. The parties (and Grynokh was, among other things, the second vice-president of the Ukrainian Supreme Liberation Council) reached an agreement about carrying out of spy activities on the territory of the USSR by forces of OUN at the expense of the funds of the new masters. And it happened: in early 1946, Cardinal Tisserant, Secretary of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, brought Grynokh together with American political intelligence officer Novak. The latter was given spy materials extracted in the autumn of 1945 by the Banderist underground.

Therefore, on February 3rd 1945 the People’s Commissar of State Security of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic Savchenko approved a plan to eliminate Ukrainian Uniatism. The corresponding directive stated:… “the Greek-Catholic Uniate Church, in its currently existing form, is alien to us in its influence and is a legal resident of the Vatican, as well as an active Ukrainian nationalist organisation on our territory. On this basis it is necessary to take a course towards the complete elimination of the Uniates on our territory and the separation of the Greek Catholic Church from the Vatican with the subsequent goal of reuniting it with the Orthodox Church in the USSR.”

It should be noted that by that time there were also a number of priests, grouped around Gavriil Kostelnik, the most authoritative figure of Uniatism (in contrast to Slipyj, who was openly disliked), were also inclined to reunite with Orthodoxy.

This reunification did not cause rejection among ordinary believers. Eventually, most of the Galician Rusyns still remembered with what glee – whole villages and towns – they returned to Orthodoxy during the short-term liberation of the province from Austrian rule in 1915.

The fact that 30 years later Ukrainian Uniatism was eliminated as a political pro-fascist organisation, not as a denomination, is also evidenced by the modern celebration by the clergy of the UGCC of all kinds of terrorists, SS, auxiliary police, overseers, and other mass murderers of the Hitler era.

Dmitry Skvortsov

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