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Beatification cause advances for Father Walter Ciszek, missionary who endured Soviet gulags

Catholic World News - March 20, 2012

The Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania, has completed a preliminary investigation for the beatification of Father Walter Ciszek, the Jesuit missionary who spent more than 20 years in Soviet labor camps.

After 10 years of research, the diocese has assembled several thousand pages of documentation on the life of Father Ciszek, including the testimony of 35 witnesses. The material will now be scrutinized by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which could eventually issue a finding that Father Ciszek lived a life of heroic virtue. At that point, the certification of a miracle attributed to his intercession would clear the way for his beatification.

Father Ciszek, a Pennsylvania native, was a missionary serving in eastern Poland at the start of World War II. When Soviet occupation troops closed down his mission, he slipped into the Soviet Union itself, and continued missionary work there until his arrest in 1941. He was held in Moscow’s infamous Lubyanka prison for several years, tortured to extract a confession, and sent to a labor camp in Siberia. Years after friends and family thought he had died, he finally wrote home from Siberia in 1955. He was released in 1963 in a prisoner exchange and returned to the US.

Father Ciszek is the author of two memoirs of his years in the Soviet gulags: With God in Russia and He Leadeth Me. He died in 1984.

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  • Posted by: demark8616 - Mar. 31, 2012 12:48 AM ET USA

    I can't wait to read these two books, especially to get a Catholic slant on what to me are the two main points or highlights of the Gulag, spiritually speaking - namely, the counterpoint between the 'horror' and the 'hope' of such situations. Alexander Solzenitzyn's accounts, although extremely good, lacked, for me, the misionary dimension - although they produced a high public awareness in the West. Thank you for this very interesting and uplifting article and information.

  • Posted by: demark8616 - Mar. 21, 2012 4:53 AM ET USA

    Thanks to this diocese for taking the time out to gather and assemble this information on this saintly priest. More importantly, it helps us never to forget the heroism of a missionary - Deus caritas est - who 'lay down their lives for their friends."

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