A dramatic page in history ignored and misunderstood in European collective memory

Although "there were more martyrs for the faith under communism than at any other time in Church history, there appears to be no haste or commitment to documenting them in martyrology”, wrote Alain Besançon bitterly in Le malheur du siecle (1998). It was for this reason that an international conference, held on 24 April at the Hungarian Academy in Rome on “The Catholic Church in Central and Eastern Europe confronting communism: attitudes, strategies, tactics” has played an important role in drawing attention to these themes still so little studied, shedding a new light on several symbolic figures from these events and furthering (through new fonts of information) the understanding of the strategies of the Holy See in those dictatorships.

One of the key points of these events, however, lies not only in the dramatic and heroic testimonies of Cardinal Mindszenty of Hungary, Cardinal Wyszynski of Poland and Cardinal Beran of Czechoslovakia which represent an invaluable starting point, but is also found in that particular political-cultural relationship that exists between the harsh reality of Eastern regimes and the symbolic representation of communism that was devised within countries behind the Iron Curtain. It is no less important that still today the ways in which the biographical details of the martyrs of faith who were imprisoned, tortured and killed by Communist regimes were reported, glossed over or ignored are yet to be reconstructed altogether in the Western world. Human events that have been read and interpreted according to the fashions and cultural sensitivities of their time, have ended up delimiting, dilluting and dampening the stories of the men and women in a kind of “Christian oblivion of Communism”(as Besançon wrote) from the European collective memory until the point of completly cancelling them out.

(Source: L'Ossertore Romano, April 26, 2012)