Another comment following Niall Ferguson’s article in The Sunday Times.
One reader asked me,
Interesting and challenging views in your comment. Do you have a reference or evidence for the Pope refusing to pray for the Polish victims of NKVD massacres?
If I remember correctly, the information about the reluctance of John Paul II to pray for the murdered by the NKVD, appeared in the closing chapter of “The Triumph of Provocation” by Józef Mackiewicz (1902-1985). The book appeared in Polish in 1962. In 1982 Mackiewicz wrote one more chapter dealing with the then-recent events in Poland. Cardinal Wojtyła was elected pope in 1978.
Since I don’t have the book with me, I can’t give you a precise quote. Józef Mackiewicz was very critical of the Vatican’s raprochement with the Communist regimes under Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI.
The Vatican envoy who negotiated church’s concessions with the Communist regimes in the 1960s and 1970s, Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, was elevated to the position of the Vatican’s Secretary of State by Pope John Paul II. This decision implies John Paul’s approval for the Vatican’s earlier policy towards Communists, in which Casaroli played a key role, as well as approval of the degradation of the Hungarian anti-Communist Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty, in which Casaroli again must have played a key role. As I wrote in an earlier comment, Pope Paul VI stripped Mindszenty of his title of Cardinal. Absolutely abominable decision which was the result of a long process. John Paul II must have approved and applauded.
The English edition of The Triumph of Provocation was published by the Yale University Press in 2009. It is interesting that the book was not translated for 47 years. When it appeared finally in English, the editors tried to alter the book’s message by adding a misleading commentary.
My second comment on Niall Ferguson’s article Aftermath: the fall of the Berlin Wall — and its lesson for China 30 years on in The Sunday Times.
Pope John Paul II, whom the author mentions, did not oppose Communists. He collaborated with them. He celebrated the 26 anniversary of his pontificate in October 2004 with the special performance of the Red Army Choir, known otherwise as the Alexandrov Ensemble. The concert took place in the Pope Paul VI Auditorium and was broadcast on tv to both Italy and Russia. The last song performed that evening was “Oka”, the anthem of the Polish Communist Army formed in the Soviet Union in 1943. You can view the video of it on Youtube. This army was later the backbone of the Communist dictatorship in Poland.
The key figure in the Catholic church who staunchly opposed Communism was Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty, the Hungarian Primate, imprisoned by the Hungarian Communists from 1948 to 1956. From 1956 to 1971 he was a special guest of the American Embassy in Budapest, where he was granted asylum. Pope Paul VI stripped Mindszenty of his church titles, including the title of the cardinal, in 1973. The Vatican basically wanted Mindszenty to stop speaking against Communism and resign voluntarily. I recommend reading Mindszenty’s “Memoirs” published in 1974.
In Poland, just like in Hungary and other Communist countries, the church was firmly under the regime’s control. It benefited Communists to present the church hierarchy as a collection of independent figures opposed to the dictatorship. There was simply no way they would allow the advance of an anti-Communist on the ladder of the church hierarchy.
Pope John Paul II refused to pray for the thousands of Polish officers murdered by the Soviet NKVD in 1940.
So, instead of a thoughtful analysis, we have a mindless repetition of a fairy tale about the fall of Communism and Pope John Paul II alleged magical role in it.
The fall of the Berlin Wall plays a role analogous to that of a pretty lady accompanying an illusionist. Communism has not fallen and there is plenty of evidence that it didn’t.
My second comment following the article Benefits boom pushes Polish populists to victory by Oliver Moody in The Times, 14 October 2019.
Cardinal Wojtyla wouldn’t have advanced to the top of the church hierarchy without Communist support. The church in Poland quickly lost its independence after WWII. The Communist control was total.
In October 2004, the Red Army Choir gave a special performance in the Vatican during the celebration of the 26th anniversary of his pontificate. The last song performed that evening was “Oka”, the hymn of the Polish Communist army units formed in the Soviet Union under the Soviet control. There is nothing accidental about it. The performance was televised to Italy and Russia. Press correspondents noted that the pope was ‘visibly moved’. Ha ha. Visibly moved, sure.
He did come to the Vatican from a ‘faraway place’ indeed as he declared in his speech right after becoming the pope.
He did not want to pray for the Polish officers murdered by the Soviet NKVD in Katyn in 1940.
‘Very instrumental in the downfall of the Iron Curtain’. These are just empty slogans.