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Catholic Culture Dedication

Ukraine's 'Great Hunger' Tragedy: Learn from the Past

by Pope Saint John Paul II

Description

For the 70th anniversary of 'Holodomor' (the terrible famine that was part of Stalin's harsh repression in Ukraine in 1932-33, causing the deaths of millions), the Holy Father wrote a message to Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, Major Archbishop of Lviv for Ukrainians, and Cardinal Marian Jaworski, Archbishop of Lviv for Latins. Pope John Paul II wanted to join in spirit all those in Ukraine who remember the victims of that tragedy, inviting the younger generations to remember past events so that similar sufferings may never be repeated. The following is a translation of the Pope's Message, which was written in Ukrainian and dated 23 November 2003.

Larger Work

L'Osservatore Romano

Pages

4

Publisher & Date

Vatican, January 21, 2004

On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of Holodomor, the Holy Father wrote a Message to Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, Major Archbishop of Lviv for Ukrainians, and Cardinal Marian Jaworski, Archbishop of Lviv for Latins. Holodomor, "the great hunger", is what Ukrainians call the terrible famine that was part of Stalin's harsh repression in their Country in 1932-1933, causing the deaths of millions.

The Soviet regime decreed at the time that all agricultural produce and foodstuffs must be requisitioned in order to subjugate an agricultural Nation to the policy of forced collectivization. Entire villages vanished; emaciated, ghost-like figures wandered through city streets. As the Pope recalled during his Apostolic Visit to Ukraine in 2001, a Nation which had been the granary of Europe found that it could no longer feed its own people.

An Italian diplomat passing through Ukraine in 1933 wrote: "Wholesale hunger continues to strike down the population, so that it seems quite inexplicable the world can remain indifferent to such a disaster".

In March 1933, Pope Pius XI, speaking of the serious crisis in that land, denounced the "catastrophic and murderous ideologies", instruments of oppression in the hands of Government leaders whose "very recent conduct shows that they are able and determined to use them" to repress the people.

On this occasion, Pope John Paul II wanted to join in spirit all those in Ukraine who remember the victims of that tragedy, inviting the younger generations to remember past events so that similar sufferings may never be repeated. The following is a translation of the Pope's Message, which was written in Ukrainian and dated 23 November 2003.

To my Venerable Brothers

Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, Major Archbishop of Lviv for Ukrainians and Cardinal Marian Jaworski, Archbishop of Lviv for Latins

1. Apart from being a duty, remembering the drama people have lived through proves especially helpful in awakening in the young generations the commitment in all circumstances to be alert sentinels of respect for the dignity of every human person. And the prayers of suffrage prompted by this remembrance are a balm for believers that soothes their pain, as well as an effective entreaty to the God of the living to give eternal repose to all who were unjustly deprived of the gift of existence. Lastly, dutiful remembrance of the past acquires a value that reaches beyond a Nation's boundaries to other peoples who have been victims of equally dire events and can give solace in common knowledge.

These are the sentiments that the 70th anniversary of the consequences of the Holodomor tragedy awakens in my heart: millions of people suffered an atrocious death due to the nefarious success of an ideology that caused suffering and bereavement in many parts of the world throughout the 20th century. It is for this reason, Venerable Brothers, that I want to be present in spirit at the celebrations to commemorate the countless victims of the great famine instigated in Ukraine by the Communist regime. It was an inhuman scheme put into effect in cold blood by those in power at the time.

Recall Tragic Events So That They Will Never Be Repeated

2. Thinking back over those sad events, I ask you, Venerable Brothers, to convey my solidarity and prayerful thoughts to your Country's Authorities and to your fellow citizens who are especially dear to me. The celebrations, planned to reinforce a proper patriotic love by commemorating the sacrifice of the Country's sons and daughters, are not antagonistic to other nations but are intended to revive in each soul a sense of the dignity of every person, to whatever people he or she may belong.

The trenchant words of my Predecessor, Pope Pius XI of venerable memory, spring to mind. Referring to the policies of the Soviet leaders of the time, he made a clear distinction between Government leaders and subjects. While he exonerated the latter, he openly denounced the responsibilities of the system that "ignores the real origin, nature and true purpose of the State . . . and denies the rights, dignity and freedom of the human person" (Encyclical Letter Divini Redemptoris [18 March 1937], II: AAS 29 [1937], n. 77).

How can we forget, in this regard, the destruction of so many families, the grief of countless orphans, the confusion of the whole of society? While I feel close to all who suffered the consequences of that tragic drama in 1933, I would like to reassert the need to recall those events, to repeat together once more: "Never again!". Awareness of past aberrations is behind the constant incentive to build a more human future, countering ever ideology that profanes the life, dignity and just aspirations of the person.

Work for Effective Peace as a Tribute to 'Holodomor' Victims

3. Today the experience of the tragedy must guide the feelings and actions of the Ukrainian people towards prospects of concord and cooperation. Unfortunately, the Communist ideology also served to deepen divisions in the social and religious contexts. It is essential to work to bring about sincere and effective peace; in this way it will be possible to pay a proper tribute to the victims who belonged to the entire Ukrainian family.

The Christian sentiment of suffrage for those who died as a result of an insane and murderous design must be combined with the desire to build a society in which the common good, natural law, justice for all and the rights of peoples will be constant guides for an effective renewal of the hearts and minds of all who have the honour to belong to the Ukrainian Nation. The memory of past events will thus become a source of inspiration for both present and future generations.

4. During my unforgettable Visit to your Country two years ago, in mentioning the period of mourning that Ukraine lived through 70 years ago I recalled "the terrible years of the Soviet dictatorship and the dreadful famine of the beginning of the 1930s, when your Country, 'the granary of Europe', was no longer able to feed its own children, who died by the millions" (Address to Representatives of the Worlds of Politics, Culture, Science, Industry and Business, Presidential Palace, 23 June 2001, n. 3; L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], 27 June, p. 4).

It is to be hoped that with the help of God's grace the lessons of history may enable people to find valid motives for reciprocal understanding, with a view to constructive cooperation in order to build together a Country that can develop harmoniously and peacefully at every level.

The achievement of this noble aim depends primarily on the Ukrainians, who are entrusted with the preservation of the Eastern and Western Christian heritage and the responsibility of achieving an original synthesis between culture and civilization. This is the specific contribution that Ukraine is called to make to the construction of that "common European house in which every people will be able to find true acceptance, together with respect for its own identity and values.

Look Back at and be Reconciled with the Events of History

5. Venerable Brothers, on this very solemn occasion how can we fail to remember the Gospel seed sown by Sts Cyril and Methodius? How can we not think gratefully of the witness of St Vladimir and of Mother St Olga, through whom God gave your people the grace of Baptism and of new life in Christ? Hearts enlightened by the Gospel understand better how to love the homeland in order to make an effective contribution to its progress on the path of culture and civilization. Family membership must be accompanied by a generous and gratuitous exchange of the gifts inherited as a legacy from previous generations, so as to build a society that is open to the encounter with other peoples and traditions.

I hope that the Ukrainian people will be able to look back at the events of history with reconciled hearts, and I entrust all who are still suffering from the consequences of those painful events to the interior consolation of the All Holy Mother of God. I reinforce these sentiments with a special Apostolic Blessing, which I impart to you, Venerable Brothers, and to all who are entrusted to your pastoral care as I invoke upon everyone an abundant outpouring of heavenly favours.

From the Vatican, 23 November 2003, Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.

© L'Osservatore Romano

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