Beware Of Soviet Ecumenism

Nikolai—Portrait of a Dilemma, by William C. Fletcher (Macmillan, 1968, 230 pp., $6.95), is reviewed by Blahoslav Hruby, managing editor, “Religion in Communist Dominated Areas,” National Council of Churches, New York.

The world situation into which this new book comes makes it even more timely than it was at its conception. For one thing, there is the growing spiritual ferment among intellectuals and churches in the Soviet Union and the persecution of those who struggle for greater freedom. Even more striking is the present non-violent revolution in Czechoslovakia, which with an unheard-of openness has demythologized twenty years of brutal and immoral rule and in so doing has brought to light the manipulation and infiltration of churches by the Communist party. This revolution is probably the best illustration of the problems raised in William Fletcher’s excellent study of Nikolai. Thus this book about the violent conflict between the Soviet state and the Russian Orthodox Church, personified by the tragic and enigmatic Metropolitan Nikolai of Krutitsy and Kolomna, transcends the Soviet scene. The questions Fletcher raises about church life in a totalitarian Soviet state apply to other Communist countries as well.

Fletcher does not attempt to write a biography of this controversial figure. To do so would be extremely difficult, for free research is impossible in this nation that, despite de-Stalinization, still remains a close society. What he offers is a scholarly, fascinating portrait. Nikolai was able to preach sermons arising from a deep Christian faith, nurtured by centuries of Russian Orthodox tradition and history, without paying any attention to the Communist state. Yet this same man indulged ...

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