Category Archives: Russian History

#275 – The Papal Peace Note

Pope Benedict XV repeatedly called for an end to the violence of the First World War, but his cries just as repeatedly were rejected by the governments of belligerent countries that would be satisfied with nothing less than total victory. Yet, it was not only the governments of belligerent countries that thwarted Benedict’s mission – many Catholic bishops and cardinals also rejected the “Pope’s peace”.

Benedict XV’s Papal Peace Note
Benedict XV’s Peace Offering Calendar

Griffin, Mike. “Snubbed: Pope Benedict XV and Cardinal James Gibbons”. Sign of Peace Journal.
Peters, Walter H. The Life of Benedict XV. Milwaukee: Bruce Pub. Co, 1959.
Pollard, John F. The Unknown Pope: Benedict XV (1912-1922) and the Pursuit of Peace. London: Geoffrey Chapman, 2000.

“The Peaceful Pope” – cover of Simplicissimus 1915.

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podcasticon#275 – The Papal Peace Note


Today in Catholic History – Prince Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin leaves Holland for the United States

On 18 August 1792, Prince Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin set sail from Rotterdam, Holland. He would arrive in Baltimore, Maryland on the 28th of October.

Though he was a Russian prince, Demetrius sailed under the name of Smith in order to reduce his expenses and for some time was known as Augustine Smith in the United States. Though he had been born Orthodox, through the influence of his mother he converted to Catholicism in 1787 and when he arrived in the United States he entered into St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore as one of its first students. He would be the first priest to receive all of his orders from tonsure to the priesthood in the United States.

Gallitzin would later travel to Pennsylvania, settling in the town he called Loretto which would become the first English speaking Catholic settlement west of the Allegheny Front. While Gallitzin was suggested for several episcopal positions in Pennsylvania and Ohio, he was never ordained to the episcopate. After his death he was named Servant of God.

Official website for the canonization of Father Gallitzin

Today in Catholic History – Leonid Feodorov becomes Catholic

On 31 July 1901, Leonid Feodorov entered into the Catholic Church at the Jesuit Church of the Gesù in Rome.

Leonid was born into the Orthodox Church in Russia and had even contemplated becoming an Orthodox priest, but after becoming acquainted with Western literature grew interested in Roman Catholicism.

After his conversion, he entered into a seminary of the Society of Jesus under a pseudonym to keep himself hidden from the Russian Secret Police. In the seminary he would decide not to become a Latin Rite priest, instead choosing to remain in the Eastern Rite so as to better serve the Russian people. He was ordained on 25 March 1911.

After returning to Russia, he was immediately exiled to Siberia by the Russian government, but was freed after the February 1917 revolution and appointed Exarch of the Russian Catholic Church and secretly consecrated as bishop.

After the Bolshevik Revolution, Fedorov would be tried in 1923 for counter-revolutionary activities and was sentenced to three years at the infamous Butyrka prison in Moscow and then to exile at the Solovki prison camp.

While at Solovki, Fedorov would offer the Divine Liturgy in secret.

He was released on 6 August 1929 and would die on 7 March 1935.

He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 27 June 2001.

The Life of Blessed Feodorov

#241 – The Formation of an Identity Part II

Surviving serious crisis and threats to its existence, the Uniate Church in the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth comes to see itself as flower shining forth the “grandeur of the Church”.

Barbara Skinner – The Western Front of the Eastern Church. Uniate and Orthodox Conflict in 18th-century Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia 2009
Joseph Macha, SJ – Ecclesiastical Unification. A Theoretical Framework Together With Case Studies From the History of Latin-Byzantine Relations 1974
Paul Magocsi – A History of Ukraine 1996
Serhii Plokhy – The Cossacks and Religion in Early Modern Ukraine 2001

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podcasticon#241 – The Formation of an Identity Part II

Today in Catholic History – The Martyrdom of Alexei Trupp

On 17 July 1918, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and his family were murdered by the Bolsheviks. While Nicholas and his family were Orthodox, their footman Alexei Trupp, who was also murdered at this time, was Roman Catholic.

In 1981, the Russian Church Outside Russia [ROCOR] declared Nicholas II, his family and his servants who were killed by the Bolsheviks on the 17th of July to be martyrs – this would include Alexei Trupp.

The Russian Orthodox Church did not recognize the murdered Royal family as martyrs, instead it considers them to be Passion Bearers – people who lived a virtuous life but did not die for the faith. The Russian Orthodox Church also did not consider Alexei Trupp to be a martyr since he died a member of the Catholic Church. However, it does consider their faithful service to Nicholas and his family to be worthy of remembrance in the published lives of the Holy Passion Bearers.

Thus the now united ROCOR/Russian Orthodox Church does not include Alexei Trupp amongst its recognized saints.

Image of Alexei Trupp
Image of Icon of Holy Russian New Martyrs done for a ROCOR church including and image of St. Alexei Trupp [in middle of top left row]

Today in Catholic History – The Finding of the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan

On 8 July 1579, a little girl by the name of Matrona discovered an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary under the city of Kazan that would come to be known as Our Lady of Kazan or the Theotokos of Kazan [Казанская Богоматерь]

This icon is of the highest importance for Russian Orthodox faithful and many churches throughout Russia are dedicated to Our Lady of Kazan. Her feast day on 4 November is also the Russian Day of National Unity. The Russian Orthodox believe that prayers to the Blessed Mother through the icon have protected Russia against Polish invasion in 1612, Swedish invasion in 1709 and French invasion in 1812.

On 29 June 1904, the icon was stolen from the church in Kazan. The thieves who wanted to obtain the golden covering of the icon later claimed to have destroyed it. However, rumors continued that stated that the icon had survived.

One copy of the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan, through for some time it was believed that it might have been the original icon, was obtained by the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima and kept at the shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal. This copy, dated to around 1730, was given to Pope John Paul II in 1983 and kept in his study in the Vatican. While Pope John Paul II hoped to visit Russia and return this icon to the Russian Orthodox while he was there, the Russian Orthodox Church refused to grant him permission to visit that country.

Unable to visit Russia, Pope John Paul II chose to return this copy of the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan to Russia on 27 August 2004. In returning the icon, Pope John Paul II expressed his hope that Our Lady of Kazan might help bring about unity between the Orthodox and the Catholics.

Today, as I announced last Sunday, our traditional weekly meeting has a special profile. Indeed, here we are gathered in prayer around the venerable Icon of the Mother of God of Kazan, which is on the point of setting out on the return journey to Russia, which it left one day long ago.

After passing through various countries and staying a long time at the Shrine of Fatima in Portugal, it providentially arrived at the Pope’s dwelling more than 10 years ago. Since then, it has found a home with me and has accompanied my daily service to the Church with its motherly gaze.

How often since that day have I called on the Mother of God of Kazan, asking her to protect and guide the Russian people who venerate her, and to hasten the moment when all the disciples of her Son, recognizing one another as brothers and sisters, will be able to fully restore the compromised unity.

More on the transfer of the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan from Pope John Paul II to Russia

Today in Catholic History – Fr. Walter Ciszek, SJ finishes fifteen year sentence in Soviet Union

On 22 April 1955, Fr. Walter Ciszek, SJ finished his fifteen year sentence in the Soviet Union’s Gulag and was released to the city of Norilsk, though with restrictions on his movement. He was finally able to write to his sisters in the United States to inform them of his fate, until this time his family and the Jesuits believed him dead.

Fr. Ciszeck had come to the Soviet Union in 1940 disguised as a worker, but in 1941 he was arrested for spying for the Vatican. He spent five years in solitary confinement in one of the Soviet Union’s most notorious prisons before being sent to the GULAG. During his imprisonment, Fr. Ciszek would continue to act as a priest by hearing confessions, celebrating Mass and offering retreats.

He did not return to the United Sates until 1963 and would write an account of his experiences in the book “With God in Russia”.

The Father Walter Ciszek Prayer League

Today in Catholic History – The Battle of the Ice

On 5 April 1242, the forces of the Republic of Novgorod led by St. Alexander Nevsky were victorious over the forces of the Teutonic Knights at Lake Peipus, also known as Lake Chud.

The Battle of the Ice took place on the frozen Lake Peipus and many of the Teutonic knights would perish as the ice collapsed under the weight of their horses and heavy armor. There is some discrepancy over the number of Teutonic knights that died at the battle. The older chronicles give a number around six hundred but modern historians think somewhere between twenty and thirty died.

Lack of historical sources contributes to the historical disagreement over the significance of the battle. Some western historians, such as John Fennell do not see the battle as particularly significant. However, for Russian Orthodox, this battle is seen as the victory of the forces of Orthodoxy over the forces of Catholicism. Indeed, one of the sources of Russian Orthodox animosity towards Roman Catholics is the belief that at this time when Orthodox struggled against the might of the Mongol invasion, the Catholic Teutonic knights tried to take advantage of their weakness.

The Battle of the Ice was dramatically presented in the famous 1938 film Alexander Nevsky by Sergei Eisenstein in which the struggle between Alexander Nevsky and the Teutonic Knights became representative of the struggle between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.

For more information on the Battle of the Ice