© 1965 by Avro Manhattan
GIANTS ACT like giants, hence their undertakings are on a gigantic scale. Years are reckoned by decades, decades by centuries. Geographical areas are made to embrace nations or even continents, while the histories of institutions and of races are seen in perspectives not easily comprehended. Because of this, their actions, being in harmony with their extraordinary magnitude, will escape the notice of individuals unable to size up the vast historical panoramas which, although clearly scrutinizable by retinas of gigantic forms, yet are partly blurred and often wholly invisible to others.
The Catholic Church, the greatest surviving giant in the world, is a colossus with no peer in antiquity, experience and above all, in her determination to dominate the human race. To reach such a goal, she will suffer no rivals, tolerate no competitors, put up with no enemies.
Giants who, like her, were found roaming in the deep valley of history, she fought with bloody claws and a ruthlessness to shame the Attillas, the Genghis Khans and all the other scourgers of civilization. Many she led to their destruction; others she subjugated for good; some were annihilated, but some resisted and escaped all her guiles. More than one survived, and even fought relentless battles that echoed with sanguinary echoes in the corridors of the centuries and that are still being fought as ferociously as in olden times, now, in the very midst of the twentieth century.
Vatican diplomacy is the oldest diplomacy in the world. Most of those it fought were either shrunk to nothing by time or blotted out by history, and to modern ears all its multifarious intrigues would sound as hollow and as unreal as they have become strangely unrelated to the ever-bewildering events of our day.
Yet not all the ancient foes of the Vatican have been reduced to mere landmarks of the past. Some have bridged bygone centuries to the present, and one of them, the most formidable of all, the Orthodox Church, a peer to Catholicism in antiquity, is as much a reality in our time as is the Vatican itself.
The antagonism of these two ancient colossi has produced the longest diplomatic war in the history of man, which is still being fought as fiercely, as ruthlessly and as unscrupulously as ever. Catholic intrigues against Orthodoxy, since its inception, are uncountable. They fill the annals of the first millennium; and from the beginning of the second, when in 1054 the Orthodox Patriarch, Michael Cerulanius, brought about the final breach between the Eastern and Western Churches, until the fall of Constantinople, they remained paramount in the history of medieval Europe.
The goal of this thousand-year war is simple: the destruction or subjugation of the Orthodox Church or its voluntary or forcible integration into the Catholic Church. The unscrupulousness of Vatican diplomacy to reach this objective, prior to and after the fall of Byzantium, is hardly matched by parallel exertions in history, its most blatant intrigues of the period being veritable masterpieces of diplomatic cunning and double-dealing. Councils, religious compromises, political bargaining, secret negotiations with Orthodox patriarchs, pacts with the Byzantine emperors – everything and every device was used at one time or another to put Orthodoxy in fetters. We can mention the pact struck with the last Orthodox emperor of Constantinople, who, to obtain a promise of help in the defense of the Orthodox capital against the gathering Mohammedan armies, pledged to the Vatican the mass conversion of the Orthodox Church.
From the smashing of the Orthodox Church’s political pillar, the Byzantine empire, in 1453, to the crumbling of its political successor, the Russian Czarist Empire, in 1917, the Vatican-Orthodox relations were characterized by a period of comparative diplomatic lull. This was due to historical factors, the most outstanding of which was that, in the course of the centuries, the center of Orthodoxy had shifted en masse from the Near East to the West, where its former missionary lands became its new home – namely, to Holy Russia. There the Orthodox Church struck deep roots.
More than that: as Rome had been the first Rome, Constantinople had been the “second Rome,” so now Moscow became the “third Rome.” Moscow, Philothey said in the fifteenth century, was the natural successor of Constantinople. Now that Constantinople had fallen, the only Orthodox empire left in the world was the Russian. The Russian nation alone, therefore, henceforward became the true repository of the Orthodox faith. The idea of an Orthodox empire became the Russian’s paramount idea. Church and State were integrated, linked by a common messianic purpose. Having found such fertile soil, soon the Orthodox Church regained its old vigor and splendor. As of old, committing its ancient mistake, it identified itself as intimately with the Russian empire as it had previously done with the Byzantine. From about 1721, when Peter the Great, after his Spiritual Regulation, made the Orthodox Church a branch of Czarism, until the Bolshevik Revolution, Caesaro-popism made her invincible against the machinations of the Vatican and almost impregnable to its attack on the religious, diplomatic and political fronts. Her immense strength, however, was her fatal weakness, as the fall of Czarism would automatically entail the fall of the Orthodox Church – which, in fact, occurred in 1917.
From then onward the machinations of Vatican diplomacy were resumed with renewed vigor wherever Orthodoxy existed – in the Balkans, in Russia, in Northeast Europe, and, indeed, even in the Near East.
Catholic instruments used to hamper, undermine, boycott and subjugate the Orthodox Church have been extremely varied, ranging from converted White Russians to Turkish officers, beginning and ending with diplomatic or political intrigues of all kinds, as can easily be imagined.
A typical case occurred after the First World War, when the fortunes of war put the fate of Constantinople in the balance. Immediately following the outbreak of hostilities, Lloyd George, Zaharoff and Premier Venezelos of Greece, signed an agreement by which the Greeks were to get the former Orthodox capital, This provoked a storm of protest from various quarters. The strongest, however, did not come from any Western State, but from the Vatican. The British government, with whom the final decision rested, became the particular target of Papal displeasure. Constantinople should never be ceded to the Orthodox Church, was the Vatican’s request. This was tactfully ignored. Thereupon, Catholic diplomacy having looked elsewhere for support, soon found an unexpected ally in an unexpected quarter, a Turkish officer by the name of Kemal, who in no time dispelled Rome’s anxiety by a brilliant victory at Smyrna. Kemal’s victory precluded any possibility of Greece getting the ancient Orthodox capital.
Kemal Ataturk was not slow to perceive that identification of the interests of the young Turkey and of the Vatican could be mutually beneficial, and a tacit but real alliance was unofficially agreed upon. The fruits that it bore were various. They ranged from the heavy punishment and even death of any Turkish soldier found harming Armenian Christians, to the granting of special privileges to the Catholic Church in Turkish territory. But in the eyes of Rome, its paramount result was that the Orthodox Church had been prevented from returning to its ancient seat.
As long as an independent Turkish nation existed, Constantinople, by remaining incorporated in it, would never pass to her, The new Turkish republic, therefore, must survive and prosper. Following this strategy, the curious spectacle of the Vatican supporting a Moslem nation ruled by an atheist dictator became a discreet feature of Catholic diplomacy. Kemal Pasha, in gratitude for the unofficial pressure exerted in his favor by Catholic diplomacy in many European quarters, maintained a tacit understanding with the Vatican throughout his tenure of office; an alliance, this, which, although almost unnoticed, yet more than once stultified various conflicting interests in the Middle East.
Kemal Ataturk, who had been the instrument of “a great victory for the Pope,” as the Osservatore Romano triumphantly put it, commenting upon Kemal’s military victory at Smyrna, a decade or so later became the instrument of a second, which symbolically was even more significant.
Such a dream, however, was soon to be shattered, at least for a comparatively short period, when in 1935 Kemal, in one of his boldest steps to modernize Turkey, converted St. Sophia into a museum of Romano-Byzantine-Christian and Ottoman-Muslim art. The humiliation of the center of Orthodoxy could not have been more bitter.
A thing worthy of notice is that, prior to Ataturk’s decision, the Vatican was informally consulted about any possible objections to St. Sophia’s transformation. The Vatican, which thunders so promptly whenever a nation threatens to secularize Catholic schools or churches, not only did not object, but actually tacitly approved and even encouraged Kemal in his scheme.
It was thus that, when finally the muezzin, having climbed the minarets of St. Sophia, called in echoing accents to the faithful for the last time and the great building became officially a museum, whereas in the East the Moslems exculpated themselves to Allah for the sacrilege and the Orthodox world heard of the change with a heavy heart, at the Vatican there were smiles. Enigmatic, it is true, but very clear to those who understood the secret code of diplomacy.
If the first upheaval created by the First World War had enabled the Vatican to score a significant victory against the Orthodox Church, that same world had unexpectedly opened up a tremendous vista of conquests for Catholic diplomacy by causing the simultaneous thunderous fall of two great empires which until then had partially dominated both the East and the West alike – i.e. the Turkish and the Russian empires. This meant not only the tumbling of two massive political units, but also – and for the Vatican this had an even more significant meaning – the tumbling of the caliphate as the supreme bead of Islam, and of the czar as the supreme head of the Orthodox Church.
The downfall of czarism, in addition to being a political event of the first magnitude, spelled the disintegration of the power of the Orthodox Church, centered in the person of the czar.
The centralization of political-religions power, by binding both, meant that the downfall of one would spell the downfall of the other. This is precisely what occurred. The Russian Revolution consequently, by sweeping away czarism, swept away also the established Orthodox Church. The latter fell, not only because of her ties with the civil power, but also owing to the intrinsic dead weight which she had grown within herself. The Orthodox Church, in fact, had become a formidable reactionary power in her own right, whose economic tentacles spread to every nook and cranny of Holy Russia, controlling with an iron grip the minds and bodies of its inhabitants. She had over 80,000 churches and chapels and an army of 120,000 priests, supplemented by thousands of monasteries and convents, inhabited by another 100,000 monks and nuns. She controlled enormous wealth in land and buildings, owning 20,000,000 acres of the richest land and, at the time of the outbreak of the revolution, a bank balance of eight billion rubles and an income of about 500,000,000 rubles a year.
Her influence was truly enormous and was at the service of the czar, whose absolutism was further advocated by priests who took to politics. Without mentioning the monk Rasputin, the clergy sent to Parliament were of the most reactionary kind. The Third Duma saw forty-five priests, none of whom belonged to the liberal party; the next Duma had forty-eight, forty of whom represented the most reactionary movements. Whenever there were elections, the Orthodox Church supported the czar and preached against any social or political reform.
The Bolshevik Revolution, when it came, swept away this formidable tool of reaction as ruthlessly as it did czarism. The immense church property was nationalized, schools were requisitioned, the clergy were brought to political impotence: in short, the separation of Church and State was made a reality, and the Orthodox Church, despoiled of her magnificence, was reduced overnight to the naked poverty of early Christendom.
All these portents were followed with sinister fascination by the Roman Curia. When, therefore, in 1917 the Bolsheviks took over, at the Vatican, incredible as it may seem, there was jubilation. If the Bolsheviks were a terrible menace, they were also a blessing in disguise. Had they not pulled down the Orthodox Church, Rome’s seemingly immovable rival? Had they not become the instruments for her approaching total disintegration?
The Russian Revolution had thus opened for the Vatican an immense field for Catholic conquest. A bold policy might result in what Catholicism had attempted in vain for over one thousand years: the reunion of the Orthodox Church, via a mass conversion of the Russians, in addition to the spiritual incorporation of Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, the Polish Orthodox Ukrainians and all the other different Orthodox groups in Eastern Europe – in fact, practically the whole Orthodox world. Orthodox resistance against the soviets found no sympathy whatsoever in Rome. On the contrary, it was welcomed in the hope that, by defying the new atheistic government, the Church would be given a mortal blow and would be wiped out for good.
It was while waiting for the Orthodox Church to receive the last blow that would finally bury her, and while the whole of Europe kept repeating, “This Lenin cannot last” – and by Lenin was meant Bolshevik Russia – that the Vatican unobtrusively made the first moves directed at attaining simultaneously its two main goals: acceleration of the stab in the back for what it believed to be an already moribund Orthodox Church, and its grandiose scheme for the mass conversion to Catholicism of the Orthodox millions.
Count Sforza, a leading figure in the Italian Foreign Office was approached by Pope Benedict XV, via one of the Popes most intimate confidants, and, under the seal of secrecy, was asked whether he would facilitate the entry of a number of Catholic priests into Russia. “Seeing my surprise,” Count Sforza afterward related:
On receiving a favorable reply, on the orders of Benedict XV, “young priests began desperately studying Russian and the history of the Orthodox Church.”1 Catholics with Russian experience and Catholic Russians overnight became top counsellors, chief among these being a Russian diplomat who, besides having become converted to Catholicism, had been ordained a Catholic priest: Alexander Evreinow, who was often consulted by the leading figures of the Vatican Secretariat of State.
From Rome, Vatican activities spread toward Russia itself. Negotiations between Rome and Moscow continued with varying fortune, the Bolsheviks being seemingly bent on pursuing crafty tactics. Yet at the Vatican the hopes that its patient efforts would eventually be rewarded by the conversion of “a country of 90,000,000 people to the true religion” remained very bright. “The moment has arrived propitious for rapprochement” (between the Vatican and Moscow),
At this point one question might come to the fore, in view of subsequent events. Surely Vatican diplomacy could not possibly trust the promises of the Bolsheviks? And, if so, why did it go on negotiating? The answer is simple, the transactions were useful as preparatory ground for the eventual grand-scale conversion of Russia after Bolshevik Russia had collapsed.
For the key to Vatican diplomacy, then as now, was just this. It must be remembered that at that period expeditionary forces were being dispatched by various Western countries to kill the revolution; indeed, that Catholic Poland had invaded Russian territory, and that anti-Bolshevik armies, encouraged, sponsored and supported by the West, were roaming inside and outside Bolshevik Russia, in attempts to bring about its early downfall. The Chancelleries of Europe were buzzing with plans and counter-plans of all kinds to bring nearer the blessed day.
The Vatican, consequently, based its moves on a possibility which at this period was practically a certainty for diplomatic Europe” Actual political conditions [inside Russia] form a grave obstacle; but this obstacle,” pontificated again the Osservatore Romano, “has a temporary character.”
The climax of the Vatican-Bolshevik negotiations was reached in 1922, when the Conference of Genoa offered the most incredible spectacle of the Bolshevik Foreign Minister, Chicherin, and the Pope’s representative, the Archbishop of Genoa, toasting one another in public. Vatican diplomacy thought it had scored a triumph, or, at least, was about to score one. Chicherin’s “concessions,” however, were but an amplification of the basic soviet rule that, as the separation of Church and State was an accomplished fact, there was the amplest scope for any Church zealous of proselytizing. The Vatican, whose scheme remained immense, interpreted this as favorable to itself, and plans for the “Catholicizing of Russia” were put forward. These, however, soon incurred great difficulties, owing to the delaying soviet tactics.
But what gave Vatican diplomacy a shock, and its understanding with the soviets a matter of urgency, was that the Bolsheviks, giving a literal interpretation to their constitution, had applied religious freedom with equal impartiality to various Protestant bodies, which had meanwhile made soundings for the Protestant evangelization of the Russians. This was not all. Atheistic and anti-religious organizations of all kinds were also flourishing everywhere, sponsored by the State itself. But, still worse, the moribund Orthodox Church, instead of resignedly giving up the ghost, was still alive – indeed, was giving alarming signs of recovering.
The incursion of the Protestants into what the Vatican had envisaged as its exclusive field, but, above all, the ominous recovery of the Orthodox Church, convinced it that time was pressing. Vagueness had to be replaced by concrete action, to force the hand of the soviets.
The Vatican changed its tactics. The phase of patient, secretive negotiations was over. That of the diplomatic mailed fist was initiated. This consisted of indirect pressure, via Catholic friendly or allied nations, upon whomsoever Vatican diplomacy decided to attack.
A Papal messenger arrived at the Genoa Conference. He bore a missive whose content was simple. It asked the powers not to sign any treaty whatsoever with Bolshevik Russia unless “freedom to practice any religion” was guaranteed. Freedom, the Vatican explained to the soviet representative at this juncture, meant complete freedom “for the Catholic Church.” With regard to the other Christian denominations (Protestant and Orthodox), the Vatican would not object to any “restrictive” measures that the soviets might take against their exertions. Previous to this, the Vatican had made sure of the support of some of the countries participating in the Conference by discreetly “briefing” Catholic and anti-communist representatives assembled there.
The Vatican’s efforts ended in nothing, the Genoa Conference having failed.
In 1927 the last semi-direct attempts at agreement between the Vatican and Moscow took place. The Vatican declared its dissatisfaction with “the soviet proposals,” and relations with Moscow were broken off for good.
Something of paramount importance which, more than anything else, made the Vatican adopt another diplomatic policy had meanwhile occurred.
The Orthodox Church, although still stunned by the 1917 blow, had rapidly adapted herself to the changed situation. The separation of Church and State, which the Vatican had reckoned would kill her, had turned out to be a more invigorating factor than her former identification with the government which had caused her downfall. Orthodoxy, in fact, had begun to reorganize itself, and in the religious domain had already almost recovered its former strength.
In these conditions, the original grandiose scheme of the Vatican had become obsolete. The policy of conversion was therefore discarded and a new one adopted. This rested upon the forcible overthrow of soviet Russia via military attack.
The original plan, based upon the formula that the soviet regime was of a “temporary character,” was re-adopted. The various Foreign Offices of the world were still conceiving different schemes for the overthrow of the Bolsheviks. Had these succeeded, the Catholic Church would have penetrated Russia in their wake.
It became increasingly evident, however, that to base a whole strategy upon this kind of “intervention” was to pursue an increasingly unrealistic policy. And within a few years, although the plan was once more discreetly dropped, it was nonetheless promptly replaced by another, no less grandiose: the total mobilization of the West against soviet Russia, to be carried out, no longer by direct military intervention, but by an ideological and emotional anti-Bolshevik crusade, preparatory to an eventual physical attack.
The scheme soon became a reality, thanks to the timely growth of a most sinister political portent: fascism, whose fundamental policy was war against communism. The Vatican, which had already concluded an alliance with its original founder, supported similar movements everywhere it could, with a view of converting the whole of Europe into a monolithic anti-Bolshevik bloc. Its ultimate objective: a military invasion of Russia.
By 1930-31 the West had already been “emotionally roused to war against godless Russia.” Only three years afterward, Hitler, having gone into power, began to voice his ambition of acquiring the Ukraine; three more years, and the Anti-Comintem Pact was signed between Nazi Germany and Japan (1936). Russia was being swiftly enclosed in an iron ring, from the West and from the East. Two more years, and the first surrender of Europe to Hitler was made at Munich (1938), when the four powers – two fascist dictatorships, Nazi Germany and fascist Italy, on the one side, and two democracies, England and France, on the other – tried to settle the fate of Europe by sacrificing Czechoslovakia at the altar of appeasement. It was the Vatican which, during this crisis, specifically asked the British Premier, Chamberlain, to exclude Russia from the Conference. This at a time when Great Britain was seeking a pact with Russia, to strengthen her bargaining weight against Hitler. The exclusion proved fatal. Hitler emerged wholly victorious, and the Second World War was made inevitable.
In the following year Hitler occupied the whole of Czechoslovakia. During the Finnish War in 1939, Great Britain and France, with the Vatican in the background, instigated the expulsion of soviet Russia from the League of Nations, and, in close cooperation with the Vatican, mobilized world opinion against her, speaking of this campaign as a crusade.
Two years later the Vatican’s grand strategy bore its fruit. Hitler, backed by the might of a nazified European continent, attacked soviet Russia. The grandiose vistas dreamed of at the fall of the czar were dreamed of once more, to the chanting of hallelujahs in St. Peter’s. The Institute Pro Russia, in Rome, which had been languishing for so long, now pulsated with feverish activity,2 and Catholics were urged to renew their devotions to Our Lady of Fatima. Yes, the promise of the Virgin, so curiously in harmony with the Vatican’s grand scheme, at long last was coming true.
Within a few months, the Nazi armies had reached the outskirts of Moscow, Leningrad and Stalingrad. Soviet Russia was about to be destroyed.
The Nazi armies and the Catholic legions fighting by their side, after their initial triumph, were hammered back. And ultimately, to the horror of the Vatican, it was the Russians who entered Berlin and not Hitler who entered Moscow.
Vatican diplomacy had received yet another resounding defeat. But even before this had been completed, with its typical suppleness it had already launched yet another anti-Bolshevik, anti-Orthodox grand scheme, in cooperation with a new partner, which was even more powerful than its former Nazi ally – i.e. the United States of America. The new campaign had been launched while the guns of the Second World War were still echoing in the battlefields of both Europe and Asia, and the people of the world were looking forward with a prayer in their hearts to an era of tranquility and peace, as, after the First World War, Vatican diplomacy operated simultaneously a many-branched anti-soviet strategy, so, after the Second, it launched another, no less formidable than the first.
The ultimate objective being the same, fundamentally its policy remained the same. In addition to its new main partners, playing the role of Nazi Germany vis-a-vis soviet Russia, new tactical moves directed at implementing it were carefully studied and carried out. These, although seemingly disconnected, in reality were closely knit into an inter-continental pattern embracing the whole world.
The principal tactical features of this new strategy took the form of: (a) mobilization of the Catholics of the Near East; (b) mobilization of the Orthodox Church outside Russia; (c) mobilization of Islam; and (d) general intensification and speeding up of the ideological and military mobilization of the West.
These four types of political machination were carried out almost simultaneously, with a technique which was greatly different from that used after the First World War, when the Vatican, having failed to carry on its intrigues against the Orthodox Church inside Russia, had shifted its operations against her outside Russia – that is to say, in the Balkans.
After the Second World War the Vatican began to mobilize all Catholics in the Near and Middle East.
It was thus that, as the various Balkan countries became sealed to Catholic diplomacy, the Vatican became increasingly active outside the Balkans – e.g. with the Chaldean Catholics, mainly centered in Iraq; the Maronites in Lebanon; the Copt-Catholics in Egypt; the Melkites, or Greek Catholics, and others to be found in practically all these territories, as well as in Syria, Trans-Jordan and Palestine.
Simultaneously with this, it approached the Orthodox Church outside the communist world with a view to inducing it to side with the Vatican, or, at least, with the Vatican’s political allies in their anti-Russian, anti-communist wars.
Unofficial negotiations were initiated, but, owing mainly to Orthodoxy’s deep-rooted suspicion of the Vatican, these yielded very little result. Indeed, it looked as though they would prevent any real rapprochement altogether.
Vatican diplomacy waited for a while and then resorted to a master move. It sent to the Middle East, no longer Catholic diplomats, but the envoy of the two most powerful men in the West: Mr. Myron Taylor, the representative of the President of the U.S.A., and simultaneously, on this particular mission, representative of the Pope vis-a-vis the Orthodox leaders whom he went to meet.
It was thus that, at the beginning of February, 1949, when the cold war against Russia was at its height Myron Taylor arrived in Istanbul, where, in his dual capacity, he met the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagorar.
Mr. Taylor put forward concrete plans for the cooperation of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, in the face of the “communist threat to religion,” at the same time trying to ascertain the “true” current status of the Orthodox churches in communist-dominated countries, and the ways in which communism might be using these churches to strengthen its position in Eastern Europe and in Near East areas. Having discussed such matters, both with the Orthodox leaders and with the Apostolic delegate in Turkey, Myron Taylor, to make his argument for Orthodox cooperation more convincing, stated in no doubtful terms that the “cooperation” of Orthodoxy was not only wished for by the Vatican but was “wanted” by the U.S.A. The whole point of the Vatican’s choice of Myron Taylor, the representative of the American President, to meet the Eastern Orthodox leaders, was to lay emphasis precisely on this.
It was the trump card of Vatican diplomacy, so well screened behind the American envoy. For it must be remembered that Greece, where the Orthodox Church was at its strongest, had been saved by America from becoming a communist country only a short while before. Following the end of the Second World War, a bloody civil war between Right and Left devastated Greece for several years. Great Britain poured in troops to reinforce the anti-communist faction. The left, however, owing chiefly to the support of the population, was near to winning, and the U.S.A. had to intervene.
Military and financial aid was rushed to the country. The left was defeated. Extreme right-wing forces were installed in power. Throughout the civil war and the British and American intervention, the Orthodox Church played a paramount role. Indeed, at one time the Greek Orthodox Patriarch became head of the Greek government.
The Orthodox Church, having identified itself with the right and with the American interventionists, consequently had the support of the Greek government, sponsored by the U.S.A. Withdrawal of American protection would have meant the fall of the right-wing Greek government, in which case the fate of the Greek Orthodox Church would have been precisely a repetition in miniature of the fate of the Russian Orthodox Church on the fall of the czar.
The dispatch of the American envoy as the Vatican’s representative, with his emphasis on the American desire to see the cooperation of the Orthodox Church, was political blackmail of the first order which the Vatican had accomplished by using political, non-Catholic pressure.
Precisely one year later the mission bore its first real fruit. In February, 1950, His Beatitude the Patriarch Cristoforos of Alexandria arrived in Athens to prepare with Archbishop Spiridon, head of the Orthodox Church in Greece, for an event of the greatest significance: the summoning of a Pan-Orthodox Synod.
The new Synod, once translated into less directly theological terms, meant a political council of the Orthodox churches to keep step with the anti-communist war of their protector, the U.S.A.
The Orthodox Church within the communist region countered soon afterward, when Patriarch Alexei of Moscow “extended” the Russian Church’s jurisdiction to include Hungary (March, 1950).
This was followed by a counter-blow from the Russian Orthodox Church in the United States, which announced that it had officially broken all ties with the Orthodox Church of Moscow. Metropolitan Bishop Krimowicz, of Springfleld, Mass., was appointed Patriarch of the Orthodox Church in the United States, and Metropolitan Bishop Jaroshevich Patriarch of the Orthodox Church in foreign countries (October, 1950). In December, 1951, Metropolitan Leonty, the Orthodox Church’s U.S. Primate, and the Bishops of Alaska and San Francisco, invested a one-time officer of the czarist army as the first Orthodox Bishop of Washington. 3
Moves and counter-moves followed one another in quick succession in the years that followed, until the bridges were totally burnt on either side.
The Orthodox Church had been split asunder, one part, the larger, in soviet Russia, the center of the communist world, the other in the U.S.A., the center of Western capitalism.
Division means weakness. The Vatican had maneuvered its opponent where it had planned to maneuver it, in readiness for reducing further its unity and thus bringing nearer its ultimate downfall.
Simultaneously with these moves, Vatican diplomacy was busy setting in motion one of the greatest religious-political forces in the world, Islam. Islam, the historic enemy of Christianity, had always loomed large in Vatican diplomacy’s plans against the Orthodox Church.
Cautious unofficial exchanges between the Vatican and various Arab countries, particularly the most influential Islamic country in the Middle East, Egypt, were begun in the years that followed the Second World War. These bore exceptional results. In 1946 an Arab delegation, composed of Christians and Moslems, paid an official visit to the Pope, and in 1947 the Moslem East made its first official approach to the Vatican. Egypt exchanged representatives with the Pope, and sent to Rome a Minister Plenipotentiary. Other Moslem countries – e.g. Syria, Lebanon, Iran – followed Egypt’s example, and soon even those Moslem lands which had not yet officially exchanged diplomats were unofficially in close touch with Rome.
The Vatican’s mobilization of the Islamic world culminated in 1950, when the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Salah ed Din, disclosed that Egypt and the Vatican had been conducting secret negotiations and had agreed upon the establishment of a “united Roman Catholic-Moslem front against communism.” 4
The following year, Azzam Pasha, Secretary-General of the Arab League, went to Rome for a whole week, where he saw the Pope and other Vatican dignitaries: “The time has come for us to collaborate loyally, both as a nation and a religious entity, in the rebirth of a common patrimony,” he declared, speaking on Radio Rome, “and in . . . the creation of a united front between Islam and Christianity against communism.” 5
The foundations of a Catholic-Islamic partnership had been skillfully laid by Vatican diplomacy. From then onward, particularly during 1951-52, and in spite of many vicissitudes, it continued to be solidified, to the present day. Islam is a potentially formidable religious-political unit. Whoever succeeds in exerting even a partial influence upon it will wield a power capable of provoking political and social repercussions in many strategically important parts of the world. From Spanish and French Morocco to Egypt, Persia, Pakistan, Indonesia, indeed, to within the very soviet Union itself, housing 25,000,000 Moslems, as well as within communist China, housing another 50,000,000.
The potentialities of the Moslem world as a formidable anticommunist, anti-Russian, religious-political instrument, did not escape the attention of another anti-communist power, the U.S.A. The American mobilization of the Islamic countries had been initiated by Roosevelt himself, who, just before his death (1945), had envisaged meeting Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia, King Farouk of Egypt and others, for the amalgamation of the Near and Middle East into the framework of American global foreign policy.
Since then, Vatican-American interests ran ever closer, until, within a few brief years, they were transformed into a veritable Vatican American alliance. The material might of the U.S.A. and the spiritual power of the Catholic Church, by mobilizing the religious influence of Islam and the political energies of the Arab world, had encircled soviet Russia in a religious-political iron ring, the precursor of a military one.
It’s objective: for the U.S.A., the destruction of a mighty ideological and economic.enemy; for the Catholic Church, the destruction, not only of communism, but of soviet Russia, the new protector of her religious rival, the Orthodox Church.
In bygone centuries the Vatican schemed stubbornly and tirelessly with the Turkish Empire, with the Austrian Empire, with Moslem, Buddhist and other potentates, to bring about the downfall of czarist Russia, so as to weaken the Orthodox Church.
In the twentieth century it schemed with equal pertinacity with the Europe which arose after the First World War, with fascism and nazism before and during the Second, in order, by causing the downfall of soviet Russia, to paralyze a regenerated Orthodoxy.
After the Second World War it continued in its relentless scheming with the U.S.A., with a “dollarized” Europe, with the Arab nations and other Asiatic countries, to annihilate the U.S.S.R., in order, once again, to subjugate its Orthodox rival.
Following the changed political world habitat, the Vatican renewed its attempts by wooing the Orthodox Church with plans of “Dialogues,” initiated by Pope John XXIII – a policy of blandishment instead of the old one of intrigues. The new policy soon yielded unusual dividends. Relics were returned, e.g. the skull of St. Andrew, which had rested in St. Peter’s, Rome, since 1462, sent back in 1964 by Pope Paul VI, to its original place, Patras, following the request by the Orthodox Metropolitan of Patras to Pope John XXIII the previous year.
Cordial relations with the traditionally morose orthodoxy were established. With the result that even the world’s largest orthodox body, the Patriarchate of Moscow, finally agreed to convoke a Pan Orthodox Conference to discuss “a dialogue” on equal terms with Rome.
This was preceded by an unique meeting: that of Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople with Pope Paul VI in Jerusalem (January 1964), followed in 1965 by the elevation of several Cardinals of the oriental churches in communion with Rome.
That same year the 14 orthodox churches participating in the Pan-Orthodox Conference at Rhodes sent a delegation to Rome, to establish the first formal contact with the Vatican since one of the last Union attempts in 1439.
The “dialogue” continued after the Second Vatican Council was over. And, although formal progress was made, the profound rivalry between the two Churches remained. The Orthodox Church’s main basic fear of ultimate absorption by Rome being still the major obstacle bedeviling their relationship.
Catholic scheming, it should never be forgotten, has for its ultimate objective, not only the annihilation of an ideological enemy, represented by soviet Russia, but also the annihilation of a religious foe, which the Catholic Church is more determined than ever to reduce to total subjugation and, indeed, to wipe from the face of the earth: the ever-resurgent Orthodox Church, the millenarian enemy she has sworn either wholly to absorb or wholly to demolish and destroy.
1. See Count Sforza’s Contemporary Italy, F. Mulker, 1940.