The Soviet Union is Back: What to Expect?

“Priests can be arrested if they use wrong words in homilies. Many people expect a new Iron Curtain, closing our borders and cutting off our access to the world. Our Church may now be facing a new era of silence,” a Russian professor warns in an interview to CNS.

Newsroom (10/03/2022 10:18 AM, Gaudium Press) In an interview with Catholic News Service, a Russian Catholic professor who asked not to be identified, stated that Russian clergy fear being arrested if they question the war against Ukraine. He warns that the Church now faces a “new era of silence.”

““Prayers for an immediate cease-fire are being said in parishes — but priests can no longer speak publicly. We are back in a situation very like the atheist Soviet Union, when a priest must turn up the radio or TV so as not to be overheard by the special services. They’re explaining they don’t want to say anything that could harm the Catholic community, or see them thrown in jail with their churches closed.”

The Russian government bans all unofficial news and information. Amendments to the Criminal Code, approved on March 4 by the Russian State Duma, allow for heavy fines and up to 15 years in prison for the “public dissemination of ‘fake news’ about Russia’s armed forces.” Several media outlets have already been shut down.

Many Catholics, the professor explains, who have friends and family in Ukraine are well informed about events. But he notes that priests can be arrested if they are not careful in their homilies.

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“Though Catholics are divided over this war, with some supporting it, most have a good enough grasp of the church’s social teaching to differentiate between a just and an aggressive war,” he said. And added: “Many brave Catholics are compensating for their clergy’s reticence by freely calling things by their real names.”

He also pointed out that Russia’s Catholic bishops, to avoid “possible persecution,” have banned publication of the Pope’s March 6 Angelus message. The Pontiff describes the Russian offensive as not just a military operation but a war sowing death.

“Russia’s public sphere can easily identify Catholics. That is why no one is blaming our clergy for not raising their voices, as Catholic teaching would require. The generations who lived through communism completely understand the need for caution.”

The professor added that many Catholics are leaving Russia to avoid a feared crackdown and possible military conscription.

“Many people expect a new Iron Curtain, closing our borders and cutting off our access to the world. Although police are busy with other tasks now, they may soon turn against us. Our Church may now be facing a new era of silence.”

Compiled by Gustavo Kralj

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