By Hilary White
ROME, December 21, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Vatican has sent the world a message of Catholicism's fundamental opposition to communism with the announcement this weekend from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Three of the greatest twentieth century opponents to the communist and socialist ideologies, Pope John Paul II, Pope Pius XII and the Polish Solidarity priest Jerzy Popieluszko, all moved a step closer to canonisation. The two popes were declared "venerable" for their heroic virtues and the Vatican announced that Pope Benedict XVI had approved the decree of beatification for Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko, the "Solidarity chaplain" murdered by the communist secret police.
In his lengthy biography, "Witness to Hope", American author George Weigel credits Pope John Paul with instrumental behind-the-scenes work in bringing down the communist regime in Eastern Europe. According to Weigel, John Paul, a Polish nationalist, was the third leg of an international triumvirate of world leaders - with US President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher - who gave moral authority to the economic and political pressure that finally led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Following the shooting of Pope John Paul II in St. Peter's Piazza in May 1981, it was widely speculated that the assassination attempt had been ordered by Moscow in retaliation for the pope's support for the Polish Solidarity movement. In March 2006 an Italian parliamentary commission concluded "beyond any reasonable doubt that the leaders of the Soviet Union took the initiative to eliminate the pope Karol Wojtyla."
Pius XII, from the beginning of his pontificate in 1939 to his death in 1958, was implacably opposed to communism which was brutally persecuting Catholics throughout Eastern Europe. In July 1949, he formally excommunicated all members of the communist party and anyone who aided or abetted it. He forbade Catholics, on pain of excommunication, to write, publish, distribute or read books, periodicals, paper or pamphlets promoting communist doctrines. His 1951 letter to the Catholic Church of Czechoslovakia denounced the Communist regime for its vicious persecution.
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