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Russian Catholic Church urges Western Christians to remember communist-era martyrs

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Recall the thousands who were persecuted, as well as big names like Solzhenitsyn, official says.

Russia’s Catholic Church has appealed to Western Christians to remember martyrs of communist rule during the upcoming centenary of the 1917 October revolution.

“The sufferings in Soviet prisons and labor camps remain an issue for the whole of society here, not just religious communities,” said Msgr. Igor L. Kovalevsky, secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference. “But stories of witness and martyrdom are universally known and respected. Churches have been built to those who died for their faith, who deserve to be compared to the martyrs of Christianity’s first centuries.”

Msgr. Kovalevsky told The Tablet, a U.K.-based Catholic newspaper, that while dissidents such as Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) are well known and will likely be remembered during the commemoration, there are tens of thousands of Christians who died for their beliefs.

The University of Notre Dame recently announced plans to publish part of Solzhenitsyn’s The Red Wheel, his magnum opus about the Russian Revolution.

An American priest who spent 18 years in confinement in the Soviet Union was Jesuit Father Walter J. Ciszek. His memoir, With God in Russia, was republished this year.

Mgsr. Kovalevsky told The Tablet that the Catholic Church was ready to help commemorate all those who died, but was particularly concerned to preserve the memory of the Soviet Union’s Christian victims.

The priest’s remarks came on the eve of a visit to Russia from the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

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