New light shed on KGB infiltration of the Vatican
by Viviane Hewitt in Rome
VATICAN authorities this week confirmed that KGB agents infiltrated the Holy See during the 1980s.
The channel the agents used was the Pontifical Oriental Institute, the seminary founded 75 years ago for future priests destined to work behind the Iron Curtain.
The Vatican knew for certain of two Soviet agents posing as seminarians six years ago and of one agent in 1985.
"They were not the real danger. The problem is those agents we were never aware of," admitted Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, Prefect of the Congregation for Oriental Churches.
Cardinal Silvestrini was talking at a convention to mark the 75th anniversary of the Oriental Institute which has trained mainly Orthodox and Uniate priests from the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church.
The admission by Cardinal Silvestrini, and the institute's rector Fr Clarence Gallagher, of Soviet spying within the Vatican, confirmed last year's revelations in the Catholic Herald by former Czech Interior Minister Rudolph Barak.
Barak claimed that he knew of the spying missions of two Czech agents in the Vatican and of bugs placed in the office of the former Cardinal Secretary of State. Agostino Casaroli, then the mastermind of the Vatican's ostpolitik.
The 1980s Soviet operations were part of a deliberate antiVatican campaign to destroy the clandestine Ukrainian Church which nevertheless had a strong grassroots hold in the republic.
"The aim was to dispatch agents to the seminaries and to the universities, so they would become priests. even bishops." said Fr Gallagher.
Fr Gallagher, who originally comes from Mossend in Lanarkshire, Scotland, is the rector of the pontifical institute that has the responsibility for furthering dialogue and relations with the Churches of Eastern Europe.
Since the fall of Communism, there are a growing number of vocations to the priesthood in the Ukrainian Catholic Church.
Fr Steven Wiwcharuk, a Ukrainian priest based in Gloucester. said that among the difficulties that the Church faced was the conflict between Catholic and Orthodox over the repossession of church buildings that had been taken over by the Communist government.
The news that their hierarchy has been infiltrated by the KGB will not seriously impair the work of re-establishing the Ukrainian Catholic Church. "It will not have a major effect" said Fr Wiwcharuk. "Infiltration was the way the Communist government worked."
The institute's secretary, Fr Jakov Kulic, went on to reveal that Vatican authorities were currently investigating the background of one GreekCatholic bishop, suspected of "entertaining contacts with the KGB".
These new revelations the first time the Vatican has confirmed speculation of this kind join a long list of alleged espionage in the Holy See since the 1960s.
It was said that towards the end of the 1960s the CIA helped to unmask a Dominican friar who worked in a Vatican office and a monsignor employed in the Secretariat of State.
There has also been speculation that the two 1978 conclaves, which elected John Paul I and John Paul II, were bugged by the KGB.
• IN ITS first public attack on Masonry, the Vatican daily, Osservatore Romano, claimed this week that "a perverse web of Mafia and occult powers, of clans and lodges" was responsible for the bombing of the Uffizi gallery in Florence.