Government Watch / History & Culture

Why Ukrainian Soldiers Carry His Picture Into Battle

AMAC Exclusive – By Ben Solis

ukrainian priest
Josyf Slipyj, a Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and a cardinal of the Catholic Church.

On May 13, 1981, the shocking news about the assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II appeared in the world headlines. Freedom fighters in Eastern Europe instantly realized that not only did the Kremlin order it, but that the Soviets would continue to try to eliminate the Polish Pope – just as they once tried to silence a brave Ukrainian priest whose exemplary life remains an inspiration to this day to Ukrainians resisting the brutal Russian invasion of their homeland.

To the Soviets, Pope John Paul II was a threat to Marxist-Socialist ideology. Two years earlier, he had spoken at the Gniezno Cathedral in Poland, a powerful symbol of the 1,000-year history of Christianity in Central Europe.

In that speech, Pope John Paul II spoke metaphorically about the Holy Spirit descending on Slavic peoples, referring not only to Poles but all the people of Central and Eastern Europe, including Ukraine. He also emphasized that the unity of European Christianity must rest on two great traditions of the West and the East.

For the Soviets, such rhetoric was unacceptable, not least because it undermined their grand narrative of Slavic peoples as engaged in an existential battle with the West for supremacy. But it also called for the unification of Catholic believers under the papacy in Rome, flying in the face of Moscow’s efforts to de-legitimize and erase the influence of the Catholic Church in Soviet territory. According to STASI secret police archives recovered in East Germany, a KGB report from September 1979 stated that the Pope’s message resonated with believers, and the Soviet Politburo subsequently ordered the KGB to “utilize all means necessary” to discredit the Pope.

One church leader who was particularly inspired by Pope John Paull II’s homily was Cardinal Josyf Slipyj. Although he has not been blessed or canonized yet, Slipyj displayed a saintly character of humility, generosity, and truthfulness.

Born into a modest family in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1892, Slipyj studied at the Greek-Catholic seminary in Lviv, becoming ordained as a priest in 1917. He then went on to study in Rome before returning to Lviv, then a part of the Second Polish Republic.

In December of 1939, just a few months after the Nazi invasion of Poland, Slipyj was ordained as an archbishop with the blessing of Pope Pius XII. Two years later, in June of 1941, he supported the Act of Declaration of the Ukrainian State. He became the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in 1944, setting him on a collision course with the Stalin regime.

When Soviet troops captured Lviv in 1945, Slipyj was arrested along with other bishops by the NKVD, the Russian secret police. After a sham trial where he was accused of collaborating with the Nazis, Slipyj was sentenced to eight years of hard labor in the gulag.

When the Archbishop was imprisoned, the Russian Orthodox Church, then completely controlled by Moscow, launched a sham council which forcefully united the Ukrainian Orthodox Church with the Moscow Patriarchate.

In the Siberian work camp, the Archbishop met a segment of that church, including Catholic intelligentsia, bishops, priests and laymen who in the gulag responded to hatred and desperation with love and charity. Without a doubt, Slipyj’s persona and testimony became the heart and soul of this community, transcending the barbed wires and spreading to the secret faithful in Ukraine.

In 1957, when the Archbishop celebrated the fortieth anniversary of his ordination, Pope Pius XII sent him a personal letter conferring his apostolic blessing. But the KGB censors withheld that correspondence, passing it instead to the prosecutor. Facing socialist judicial proceedings over “contact with Pope,” the Archbishop once again refused to separate from the Roman Catholic Church. For that, he had to serve another seven years of compulsory labor in the concentration camp.

Finally, in 1963, Slipyj was freed by the Khrushchev regime after aggressive lobbying by U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Pope John XXIII, arriving in Rome in February of that year. Although he was banned from entering Ukraine, Slipyj refused to give up his Soviet passport until he died in Rome in 1984. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, his relics were returned to St. George’s Cathedral in Lviv.

Today, numerous soldiers defending Ukraine against Russian aggression carry Slipyj’s image as a holy icon. His perseverance and consistent and uncompromising faith in the Ukrainian people and, more broadly, the dignity of humankind, continues to provide inspiration for all those defending freedom against tyranny.

Ben Solis is the pen name of an international affairs journalist, historian and researcher.

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28 days ago

“Soviet aggression”? You mean “making the world safe for the Bidens’ cashcow.” This Ukraine war is a humongous money-laundering scheme for the Dems and the deepstate. Russian has every right to liberate ethnic Russians oppressed by CIA-installed gay porn dancer Zelensky and his Nazi militants.

1 month ago

They should be carrying pictures of Jesus Christ not idol worship remember the 1st and greatest command, Love God with all your heart mind soul and strength!

Mike Walker
1 month ago

Pope Francis says NATO and the West started this war.

Dan W.
1 month ago
Reply to  Mike Walker

According to the Wall Street Journal, Pope Francis said that the “barking of NATO at the door of Russia” might have led to the invasion of Ukraine and that he didn’t know whether other countries should supply Ukraine with more arms.

The pope at the same time deplored the brutality of the war and criticized the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church for defending the invasion in religious terms, warning that Patriarch Kirill of Moscow “cannot turn himself into Putin’s altar boy.”

Pope Francis made his remarks in an interview with Italian daily Corriere Della Sera. He described Russia’s attitude to Ukraine as “an anger that I don’t know whether it was provoked but was perhaps facilitated” by the presence in nearby countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Meanwhile, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow delivered a sermon Tuesday at the Kremlin’s Cathedral of the Archangel, falsely claiming that Russia never attacked another country.

“We don’t want to go to war with anyone, Russia has never attacked anyone,” he said, in remarks carried by the Interfax news agency.

“It’s amazing that a great and powerful country never attacked anyone,” he added. “It only defended its borders.”

Since February, Pope Francis has deplored the suffering of Ukrainians and denounced the invasion but refrained from explicitly naming Russia as the aggressor, reflecting both a Vatican tradition of neutrality and his own agenda of better relations with the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as a reluctance to align the Vatican with U.S. foreign policy.

The pope said that he was ready to travel to Moscow to meet with President Vladimir Putin to appeal for peace, but that the Kremlin hadn’t responded to the offer. He said he told the Russian ambassador to the Vatican at the start of the war: “Please stop.”

Frank Bort
1 month ago

Truly Inspiring!!! What a great man Thank you

Casey C Matt
1 month ago

Yep. Blame modern Russia for the grievous errors of the Soviet Era.
Should we also blame America for the massive loss of life that British Colonialism caused? We USED to be under British Law remember.
So, AMAC, keep up with the BS as people walk away from your McConnel brand of nation building.

Dan W.
1 month ago
Reply to  Casey C Matt

Modern Russia didn’t exactly cover themselves with glory helping Assad in Syria or stamping out dissent in Chechnya or liberating a slice of Georgia (not that we haven’t blundered with equal aplomb in Afghanistan, Iraq and the rest of the Middle East during the past 30+ years as well).

1 month ago

Reunification of the Catholic (West) and the Eastern Orthodox (East) will be very hard and there are complex issues between the two going back eons! There are holy folks on both sides of this war in both Catholic and Orthodox communities by priests, bishops, and laymen and want this war to end.

This war is at the foot of Putin, not the citizens of either country but to assume that the Orthodox church in Russia is all evil because they won’t unite with the West is wrong! History shows that once the split between East and West happened in 1054, changes have happened in the growth of both churches and some of those changes are not compatible between East and West.

Until these complex areas are resolved, the East and West will remain separate. But both sides have folks that are doing the Lords work and do not need to be demonized! FYI: there are a lot of us Eastern Orthodox Christians, including Russian and Ukrainian folks, who live in the US and hate what’s going on over in Europe. We are all brother and sisters in Christ!

1 month ago
Reply to  Carol

Reunification is not an issue, you last sentence says it all: “We are all Brothers and Sisters in CHRIST JESUS.” AMEN.

1 month ago

This is the first article I have seen that breeches subject of religion in regards to the Ukranian/Russian conflict. There may be an underlying truth here when one considers the break from the Russian church by the Ukranian church…..and the desire that they re-unite. Putin may or may not be Christian, but there may be some aspect of his military efforts against Ukraine that enjoin submission to a re-unification of these churches. For me, it is one more facet of the conflict and perhaps has more impact from the citizen side than many will admit. Ukraine is no innocent bystander politically, but the individual citizens may be holding to religious motivations as much as sovereignty issues. Politics aside, history may reveal in the end, that this was as much a religious war as it was a war in any other terms.

1 month ago

the Catholic Church, the Church of the Apostles will always be around, it may be small in number and may be persecuated throughout in life on this earth in different places but it will still stand. Like the Jewish people, this church and Israel are the Ones from the Holy Trinity and HE wins over the fallen angel, the devil in the end of the story. that is why this demon is called the eternal loser and his followers who have all themselves many names but have the same fear GOD ALMIGHTY and HIS SON and MARY etc that they want all of them gone are going to lose in the end as well. we all die and have to face the JUDGE.

1 month ago
Reply to  irene

those in the Lambs Book of Life will be greeted and given their reward. those in the Book of Life will be separated from Jesus for all eternity.

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