Drastic Measures

Soviet Zone leaders of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKID) are resorting to drastic measures—including a cut in ministers’ salaries—to thwart efforts of the communist regime to paralyze the Church’s work by undermining its financial resources.

Some churches already have ordered a 10 per cent reduction in the salaries of both pastors and church workers. They have levied special contributions, and in addition, have taken disciplinary measures against members who balk at paying their church “taxes.” Such persons will temporarily forfeit their right to such services as baptisms, marriages and funerals.

In a recent sermon, Bishop Otto Dibelius of Berlin, chairman of the EKID Council, appealed to the East German members to respond to the financial plight of their churches in “a true spirit of Christian sacrifice.”

Communist measures to disable the Church financially have become increasingly stringent over the past two years and are generally regarded as attempts to minimize the Church’s influence as an anti-communist force.

The measures include reductions in State subsidies, sharp reduction in street and house-to-house collections.

Control In Hungary

Hungary’s State Office for Church Affairs has been abolished as part of a governmental reorganization program undertaken by the communist regime of Premier Janos Kadar.

The office’s “sphere of influence” has been assumed by the Ministry of Public Information.

What effect this action will have on the churches of Hungary was not immediately apparent.

The Budapest Radio claimed that the move “virtually ends State control of the churches.”

“The churches,” it said, “can fulfill their tasks freely. The State authority will no longer interfere with the churches’ work.”

The Office for Church Affairs was set up in May, 1951, as a separate department for religious matters. Late last November, after Soviet forces had crushed the insurrection, the office issued a statement saying that “the revolutionary worker-peasant government stands for the free practice of religion as laid down in the constitution of the Hungarian People’s Republic … It wishes in the future to resolve questions arising between the State and the Church through negotiations and agreements.”

Abolition of the Church Affairs Office came after Hungarian church groups had acted in the wake of the uprising to throw off the shackles imposed on religious life and institutions by the communist regime and to oust collaborationists appointed to church offices.

Janos Horvath, a communist, had been director of the Church Affairs Office. During the short-lived revolt, the Office apparently ceased functioning and telephone calls there remained unanswered.

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