Wednesday, October 10, 2012

ADSS 3.2.406 Andrej Szeptyckyj to Pius XII

At the same time diplomats immured within the Vatican were starting to exert significant pressure on the Pope to make a clear statement condemning German atrocities, information from "the East" continued to arrive in Rome.  One of the most explicit letters was from the Uniate / Greek Catholic Archbishop of Lvov, Andrzej Szeptyckj (1865-1944).  No stranger to controversy, Szeptycki was very blunt in his description of the German occupation.  This letter was hand written and sent with a realistic acceptance that it could be intercepted by "those who should not read it".  Szeptycki was an old man in 1942 and, as he made clear to the pope, was ready to die for the sake of his people, his church and his country.  The letter reached Rome, but there is no indication at this stage if a reply was considered or sent.  

Perhaps Pius believed it was too dangerous? This could have well been the case with an interesting observation about two other letters that effectively bracketed ADSS 3.2.406.  In ADSS 3.2.397 Pius XII wrote to Szeptyckj on 25.07.1942 with congratulations for his Golden Jubilee of ordination, and then ADSS 3.2.409 which is Szeptyckj's letter of thanks to the pope on 14.09.1942.

ADSS 3.2 Document 406 
The Metropolitan of Lvov (Uniate) Andrzej Szeptyckj to Pope Pius XII

Reference: AES 6881/42
Location and date: Lvov (LĂ©opol) Ukraine,  29-31.08.1942

Summary:  The Metropolitan informs the Pope of the situation in his diocese, under German domination, after the retreat of the Russians.
Language: French


Most Holy Father,

I have not written to Your Holiness since the German occupation as I have not been confident that my letter would not fall into the hands of those who should not read it.  Hoping, however, that I will have a good opportunity in the very near future, I write this brief essay in the hope that it will succeed in reaching Your Holiness.

Released from the Bolshevik yoke by the German army we felt some relief, but it only lasted a month or two.  Gradually, the Government has established a system of terror and corruption that becomes every day heavier and more unbearable.

Today the whole country agrees that the German regime is evil, almost diabolical, and perhaps even more so than the Bolshevik regime. For at least a year no day has passed without the more horrible crimes being committed, assassinations, stealing, rapes, confiscations, and extortions. The Jews are the first victims, more than two hundred thousand of them having been killed in our small country.

As the [German] army advanced eastwards, the number of victims grew.  In Kiev, within a few days, they executed up to one hundred and thirty thousand men, women and children.  Over the last year all the small cities of Ukraine witnessed similar massacres.  In the beginning the authorities, ashamed at these inhuman acts of injustice, endeavored to ensure they had documents to prove that locals or militia [partisans?] were responsible for the murders.  Over time, they began to kill Jews in the streets, shamelessly, in front of the entire population.  Unsurprisingly, crowds of Christians, not only baptized Jews, but “Aryans” as they say, were also victims of unjustified murder.  There are hundreds of thousands of arrests, mostly unjust; crowds of young men are shot without any plausible reason.  A regime of serfdom has been applied to the rural population, which is now trapped.

Moreover, almost all the young people are forced to go to Germany as factory or farm workers.  They take almost everything the peasants produce by first demanding double the set amount.  The death penalty is proclaimed for anyone caught buying or selling anything directly from the producers.  Restitution of private property has been proclaimed but nothing is done to do it.  On the contrary, the [German] authorities will use without reservation, all property confiscated by the Bolsheviks and say that the entire earth belongs to the State.  It is often said in whispers that personal property is considered “spoils of war”.  They continue and expand the Bolshevik system.  Certainly, there are some honest people among the leaders.  Sometimes one even meets some good Catholics, but the vast majority of the staff sent here are lawless people, who enable quite incredible abuse.  Villagers are treated like blacks in the colonies.  They are flogged and slapped for no reason; for example, the food they bring to their children in the city is confiscated, and it is done with so little human feeling that you do not believe it could be possible.

And yet, they are real.  From the personal testimony of some people, I know that the head of a district, for example, has a passion for personally confiscating the baskets of villagers who go to the city and throw the peasants in the river.  He does this in a time of real famine which had raged before the harvest in many villages.  And nobody dares to complain because he would seek revenge on the complainer.  Nothing can be done because he enjoys protection from someone higher up.

An eye witness told me personally, that he saw a young SS officer run from a distance so as not to lose the opportunity to give a blow to a dying man, unknown to the rest of the people, who had been killed by the police because he had done something to displease them. 

I am unable to expand on similar cases – they are innumerable.

It is just as if a band of angry or enraged wolves had fallen against the poor people.  And it is not only peasants and the simple people who are exposed to bellows and blows.  For example, a German clerk enjoys treatment two or three times higher than a non-German can beat up the highest non-German prosecutor.

People struggling with the police are beaten with rubber truncheons in the public train stations or in the street.  Sometimes they set loose police dogs on the people.  Sometimes the dogs are muzzled, but there are cases where they are not.

Despite our repeated requests to order small parishes among the farms that were confiscated de facto under the Bolsheviks but not “nationalized” as they said, we have achieved nothing and the allocation of the clergy is greatly reduced to a very poor result.

I must mention with great appreciation the help we receive from German Catholics through the association to help Germans on the borders of the Reich.  The Ukrainian clergy gets, it is true, what the Government calls the “voluntary support” of RM50 a month which is rather a “political demonstration” rather than real relief.

Yet we are expected to pay a 25% tax assessment.  The anti-Catholic laws of the Reich do not yet apply.  Priests are allowed to teach catechism to children in schools.  We do not mix sermons and the administration of parishes.  One also wants to regulate marriages, but not in an anti-canonical sense.

The Germans demand of the clergy, as for all citizens, requirements for passports, permissions and all the restrictive regulations of civil liberties which can only be imagined.  But it has permitted the opening, for example, of seminaries.  Our seminary, theological academy operates almost normally.  However, a real persecution threatens us continually like a sword of Damocles over our heads.  The Germans allow me to print a monthly newspaper for the diocese for Pastoral Letters and Instructions.  But, they confiscate things for the most trivial reasons in the world.  Nonetheless I was able all the same, do make six pretty solid issues of about 32 pages each.  I was able to convene a diocesan synod, which has lasted throughout most of the year and given me the opportunity to be in continuous communication with the clergy of the diocese.  Monasteries are gradually being reorganized.   But this is far from being a sufficient counterweight to the nameless demoralization faced by the simple and weak.  They learn in effect to steal, commit murder; they lose their sense of justice and humanity.  I protested the homicides in Pastoral Letters, which were, naturally, confiscated, but not before they were read four or five times by the gathered clergy.

I declared that homicide was a case of excommunication reserved to the bishop.  I protested again in a letter I wrote to Himmler and I endeavored to prevent young people from putting their names forward for the militia as this is a cause of scandal.

But all this is nothing compared to the growing flood of moral filth engulfing the country.

We fully expect that as the regime of terror grows, it will turn its proceedings more and more to Ukrainian and Polish Christians.  The executioners are accustomed to seeing bloodshed and bloodlust, and are in fact used to massacring Jews, thousands of innocent people.

Because everything is now already permitted by the Germans, it is unlikely that their rage will be stopped when there is no force to impose any discipline.  We therefore expect that the whole country will be immersed in a sea of innocent blood unless some extraordinary event stops the course of things.

The only consolation we have in these terrible times is that nothing happens to us against the will of oass="MsoNormal">

We can not ordinarily serve prisoners of war in hospitals or concentration camps where over a few months hundreds die daily the vast majority of them prisoners.  I have statistics and lists which are daunting and frightening.  Our priests are not allowed to serve our people, many of whom are in the greater Ukraine.  We are afraid of the cause of the Union of Churches.  We are afraid of any type of harmony, because the regime is fully and skillfully adept at the maxim “divide …” and indeed we are the victims.  I did not add any criticism of the system that Your Holiness better understands than all of us.  This system of lies, deceit, injustice and looting is a caricature of all ideas of civilization and order.

This system of selfishness is exaggerated to absurdity, a national chauvinism that is quite mad, a hatred of all that is honest and beautiful, a system that is something so phenomenal that one feels as though stupefied at the first sight of a monster.  To what end will this system lead the unfortunate German nation?  It will lead to a degeneration of the race unknown in human history.  God will ensure that the Catholic Church will not fail, even though it cannot fail to feel the shock against the influence of hell.  If the persecution takes the form of massacres because of religion it could well be the salvation of those countries.  There is a huge need for blood volunteered to atone for the blood shed in these crimes. 

Your Holiness denied me the grace of an Apostolic Blessing three years ago, through which I pledged to offer my life for the apostolic mission given to me for the salvation of my diocese.  I do not insist on this, persuaded that Your Holiness understood things better than I did, but I think I lost the best and perhaps only occasion under the Bolsheviks.  But these three years have taught me that I am not worthy of such a death.  And I realized that the sacrifice of my life would have less value before God than a prayer of a child.  Today I ask a special blessing for my prayers and sacrifices.  The greater sacrifices are for the entire Catholic Church, a small proportion remain for my diocese and my people but these sacrifices will not be as fruitful as the Blessing Your Holiness and thostly unjust; crowds of young mhrough your Blessing.  That is why, prostrate at the feet of Your Holiness, I beg you to kindly bestow Your Apostolic Blessing for my poor people, the poor clergy of my diocese and my more nothingness.

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