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As our country plunges into yet another foolish war in the Moslem world and teeters on the edge of bankruptcy, it is easy to be focused on the negative. But today's news also brought a small reminder of hope. The synod of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, meeting in Lvov, just elected 40-year old Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the third youngest Catholic bishop in the world, to be the Major Archbishop of Kiev-Halych and the de facto head of the Church. Under Soviet rule, such an event could not have occurred: until the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian Catholic Church was the the largest illegal religious body in the world. After the Soviet conquest of western Ukraine during World War II, all of the Church's property was confiscated and all of its clergy who were unwilling to accept Soviet domination were sent to the Gulag, where many perished. The Soviet suppression of the Ukrainian Catholic Church was preceded by Lenin's murderous persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church and was accompanied by Stalin's persecution of all varieties of Christians in all the lands of Eastern and Central Europe that fell into his lap after World War II. For those of us who grew up during the Cold War, the fact that people in those lands are now free to practice the faith of their fathers still seems little short of miraculous. And the fact that such an event could occur in a land once in the grip of Soviet tyranny should remind all of us that evil does not have the last word, no matter how bleak the contemporary political scene might seem.
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