A Fig From Smyrna

Jan Chryzostom Cardinal Korec, S.J., was an eyewitness to the 20th century’s most important event: the defeat of Marxism-Leninism in Eastern Europe by the Church established by Jesus Christ.  At age 27, Korec was secretly consecra-ted as a bishop in Slovakia, a largely Catholic nation of five million.  He led the underground Church after the 1948 communist coup d’etat and was arrested and charged with conspiring against “the People’s Democratic System.”  Korec’s indictment read, “As a secret bishop . . . he secretly ordained several seminarians to the priesthood and, until his imprisonment, he directed, led and organized members of the Jesuit religious order.”  Sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for his Christian Faith, Korec witnessed human nature in many dimensions, including man’s cruelty to man.  Religious were forced to work in dangerous uranium mines and placed in underground cells where food was only provided every third day.  Some were martyred.  Last September, Pope John Paul II beatified Sr. Zden-ka Schel-in-gova (1916-55), who was hung naked and tortured, and who later died.  Many, like Korec, responded to Golgotha by forgiving their persecutors.

Parts of Slovakia, which lies south of Catholic Poland and west of Orthodox Ukraine, were under Ottoman Turk rule in the 17th century.  A castle was built to defend Korec’s...

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