Das Verhältnisder katholischen Kirche Osteuropas zum Westen nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg

Gabriel Adriányi


The end of the Second World War entailed fundamental upheavals in Eastern Europe, which strongly influenced also the Situation of the Catholic Church. Especially under the pontificate of Pius XI (1922-1939), however, the various local churches not only regenerated, but also further developed with the aid of Vatican concordat politics. Theology itself as well as the way it was imparted by professors and the training of priests in East European countries continued to be influenced by the West; Russians, Lithuanians, Rumanians and Hungarians erected papal Colleges in Rome. The local churches intensified their international contacts by flourishing missioning, i.e. by sending missionaries to and from Eastern Europe. Pilgrimages and the beginning tourism in the clergy, especially to Rome, caused a strong attachment to Western Catholic countries. Great international demonstrations, such as the Eucharistic Congresses in Poznan (1927) and Budapest (1938) as well as the Assembly of Catholics in Prague (1936) with hundreds of prominent dignitaries and thousands of believers from abroad moved the native churches into the limelight of the international Catholic press and of the public. The military oecupation of the East European countries by the Red Army in the end of 1944 and in the beginning of 1945 initiated the seclusion and Separation of the Church in Eastern Europe from the World Church. The actual communist church politics - i.e. persecution and oppression of the Church - became clearly apparent in the various countries only starting from 1948/49, but Western contacts of the churches have been unwelcome also in earlier times. The realization of Stalinist church politics meant also complete isolation of the Church. Even Church contacts within the Socialist bloc were not allowed. The bishops' connections with the Holy See were completely cut off, also with regard to official correspondence and Vatican papers. No Catholic priest or dignitary was allowed to enter or leave East Bloc states. Also the indispensable five years-visits ("Ad limina") of the bishops to Rome had to be dropped. The result of this isolation became soon apparent in theology which soon showed a lag of about 20 years in comparison with Western theology. Only after the revolutionary events in the G.D.R. (1953) as well as in Poland and Hungary (1956), it came to a slow change of the Situation. Most of the Communist parties realized that religiousness in a nation cannot be erased by administrative measures within a short time and therefore made arrangements for a longer coexistence with the churches. The Holy See replied by a new Ostpolitik. The various local churches have developed in quite different directions since. The Polish government went the farest in this respect while the Rumanian rulers showed the least signs of liberty. Between both these poles the governments in Yugoslavia and in the G.D.R. allowed the greatest freedom of action to the Church while Hungary strictly observed the sporadic Western contacts of the Church and Czechoslovakia practised very rigid Church politics. A further liberalization - with the exception of Rumania - took place in the years 1985–1988. Nevertheless we may State that oppression and isolation of the Church in Eastern Europe, practised since 1949, entailed a lag of more than 20 years with regard to the Western Church; furthermore, the Catholics there have never experienced any new theologic tendencies.