WE ARE here in this Cathedral not for and political purpose, not to express our views for or against any economic or governmental system, but solely in the interests of religion, of morality, and of the right of every human being to religious freedom.
We are here to lift up our voices, in common with believers in God of all faiths, against a power which in its own official organs proclaims itself the enemy of God and of God's laws, which by ruthless persecution is undertaking to stamp out religion and those moral ideals for which religion stands, which seeks to undermine and des-troy the free institutions of other nations, and which, let us remember, through many channels, is spreading its teachings of godlessness and immorality here in our own land and throughout the world.
And so we are here to lift up our prayers to Almighty God for those who in Russia are suffering religious persecution which in some of its features is without parallel in human history.
Setting aside all that may be un certain or exaggerated, the main facts of this persecution are be yond any possible doubt or question and they are such as should move the heart and conscience of every right minded man and woman of whatever race or creed.
It is the openly avowed purpose of the Soviet Government to extirpate religion from the lives of the whole Russian people. That is their acknowledged program.
In response to the protests now being made in England, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Italy and other countries the Soviet official weekly paper Izvestia says, "We entirely recognize our guilt. Workers of the United Soviet Socialistic Republics not only are attempting to build, but in fact have already built their State without God, and a government without any of God's laws."
The statement that the cruelties inflicted are not persecutions for religion but punishments for disobeying the law of the State is a subterfuge so transparent that it should deceive no one.
Father Edmund J. Walsh, Vice President of Georgetown University, an authority on conditions its Russia who has spent several years there says, "the full might of the Soviet Government, its army, its police, its legislation, its control of food, of lodging and education, its subsidized terrorism and espionage in a word the State itself--is mobilized to extirpate religion by direct and indirect attack."
After giving facts which are in disputable as to the appalling number of those who have been imprisoned, exiled, and most cruelly done to death for their faith, Father Walsh says, "Many of these martyrs and confessors of the faith I knew personally, and I can testify that their only crime was that they believed in God and taught His revelation and the moral law as God gave them the light to see it," and he adds that "the Jewish religion is assailed with the same methods and with equal hatred."
At the grease meeting held recently in the Albert Hall, Landon, the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain pointed out that most cruel, and most serious of all in its moral and spiritual consequences, is the law against religious teaching of the young, accompanied as it is, by the deliberate effort to array the children against their parents and to instill in them anti-religious and immoral teaching.
This effort to subvert the minds of the children has been intensified in the past few months by government orders to the teachers in the schools.
Mr. Arthur Henderson, Foreign Secretary of the Labour Government in England, in answer to questions in the House of Commons on March 10th stated that a study of the Soviet Government's decree respecting religious associations indicates "a continuance of the anti-religious pressure which for many years past has been a notorious feature of the Soviet Government."
Never perhaps in history has there been such an effort to blot out and destroy all religion from human life. Surely those who are suffering from this persecution are entitled to our sympathy, our prayers, and such support as we can give them by the expression of our brotherly feeling for them. Few have realized what was taking place in Russia, for in that land no man dares to speak the troth, but now the facts have shocked the whole civilized world.
Pope Pius XI has lifted up his voice in condemnation of these out rages against God and against humanity.
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have uttered their solemn protests in words which have stirred the whole Anglican Church.
In all civilized lands, and by leaders of all faiths, protests are being made against these blasphemous, cruel and wicked deeds. And certainly we in this land cannot sit silent. We must bear our witness before God and men in this matter. We must pray for the persecuted of all faiths, and especially for our fellow Christians of the Orthodox Eastern Church; we must pray for those who are inflicting these wrongs upon their fellow men, and we must pray also for ourselves that we and all other Christians may be forgiven for whatever share of this wrong doing rests upon us through our religious indifference and our unfaithfulness to Christ, and that we may be aroused to new effort to bring in Christ's Kingdom among men.
In a few weeks from this time, on Good Friday, the whole Christian world will stand once again in reverent wonder before the Cross. May these terrible deeds in Russia give us a new sense of the meaning of that Cross for the whole world, and of the power and love of Him Who hangs there.
For the sake of our homes, and of our children in the days that are coming, for the sake of all that is sacred and holy in human life, may these events draw Christians all over the world, and all believers in God, nearer to each other. It should stir our hearts to feel that in this crisis Christians of all names, in all parts of the earth, are once again praying together.
On Wednesday of this week in response to the call of His Holiness Pope Pius, I have asked that all of us in this Diocese, clergy and people, shall lift up our special prayers along with those of our Roman Catholic brethren in this land and throughout the world. May the prayers of all believers in Gad, here in America and all over the earth, go up daily to the Lord God of Heaven and Earth that this wickedness may be brought to an end, that the hearts of those who are guilty of these deeds may be touched and changed, and that His Divine aid and comfort may be given to all who are suffering for their religion.