New York Times October 8 1977
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia, Oct. 7 (AP) — The Vatican Representative at the European security representative at the European security conference today criticized religious restrictions in Communist countries and asked freedom of worship for Eastern Rite Catholics in the Soviet Union.
In his opening speech at the conference, Msgr. Achille Silvestrini deplored «difficulties thrown in the way of religious practice for certain categories of persons and to religious education.»
«Appeals, testimonies and requests continue to multiply, sometimes impassioned and anguished because the situation in some regions is still far from a normal life of sufficient liberty,» he said.
Pope Paul VI has criticized lack of religious freedom in Communist countries before, but in international forums the Vatican has opted for behind the scene diplomacy.
The most significant shift in Monsignor Silvestrini’s speech at the 35-government conference, which is reviewing progress on human rights, European security and economic cooperation, was its open appeal for freedom for Eastern Rite Catholics in the Soviet Ukraine, where they have been estimated to number over five million.
The Vatican delegate did not mention the Ukrainian Catholics by name but referred to «a grave wound which we would like to see remedied and healed with a hope that we cannot abandon.»