Cardinal Heenan has agreed to become a patron of the Centre for the Study of Religion and Communism, the ecumenical research organisation which has just moved to new premises at Keston, Kent.
The centre, founded in 1970 by the Rev Michael Bordeaux, an Anglican, has taken over a former Church of England primary school. It is to be called Keston College, and will be a study centre for examining the latest trends in the position of Christians and other religious groups in countries with Communist regimes.
The centre employs a young team of post-graduate research workers, all with a working knowledge of Russian and other languages, who sift through the regular supplies of material which arrive at the office.
They receive all the official Soviet newspapers and also much "underground" material, and they also keep close contact with the various relief organisations which are trying to help Christians in Communist countries.
Mr Bordeaux is firmly of the opinion that more could and should he done by Christians in the West to help those oppressed for their beliefs in Russia.
"I am staggered that so little is being done," he said "Many Church groups in this country simply choose to ignore what is going on in Russia and her satellite countries."
He was highly critical of the Catholic Institute for International Relations, which has produced no report or definitive comment on the subject during the last decade: "They simply seem to accept the official viewpoint as propagated by the authorities," he said "The Churches Commission on International Affairs, based in Geneva, is exactly the same."
Cardinal Heenan has been interested in the centre's work for some time, and Mr Bordeaux was particularly impressed with his welcome to Cardinal Mindszenty when he visited this country last year. Cardinal Heenan preached a sermon on the Persecuted Church at a special Mass in honour of Cardinal Mindszenty.• The centre has strong links with "Aid to the Church in Need," the organisation run by Fr Werenfried van Straaten which helps struggling churches in Communist countries, Fr Martin Gosling, organiser of its British headquarters, is on the council of the centre.
Mr Bordeaux, who as an acknowledged expert on the subject of religion in Communist lands has lectured in many parts of the world including America and Australia, is firmly convinced that more could be done by ordinary people in this country to help Christians behind the Iron Curtain.
"I always recommend people to join 'Aid to the Church in Need', which is a very effective relief organisation and does -a lot of work," he said.
"We are also particularly interested in the day of an annual United Day of Prayer for Christians in Communist countries — something that was first suggested sonic time ago and is rapidly gathering support."
His organisation acts as a news centre for releasing information about Christians in Communist countries to the Western press, and also produces a magazine, "Religion in Communist Lands," which has a rapidly increasing circulation.
"There is a tremendous amount of interest now in what is actually happening to religious. groups in Soviet Russia," said Mr Bordeaux.
"At one time people laughed if you mentioned persecution, but now they take it more seriously. Alexander Solzenhitsyn's book The Gulag Archipelage has certainly alerted many people to the realities of life under Communism, and our work is increasing all the time. Christians want very much to express their concern on this whole subject, but have not been given the chance."
The situation varied, he stressed, from country to country. In Poland the Church was very strong and could therefore stand up to pressures from the authorities. In other countries it was less able to do so.
In Russia itself the situation was more severe than in the satellite countries, and Czechoslovakia was having a particularly strong clampdown on all religion at the moment, following the more liberal period which preceded the 1968 invasion.
In all countries, Baptists and Pentecostals had particular problems but were nevertheless growing in numbers, said Mr Bordeaux. There was a real need for a new, ecumenical, relief organisation.