Josyf Slipyi. Under “Monakh”’s Operational Surveillance in the Vatican


The gesture of moscow's “goodwill” associated with the release from the camp of a prominent church figure, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) Josyf Slipyi and granting him permission to travel abroad, as it turned out, had its explanation and continuation. Declassified documents from the Branch State Archive of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine show that the kremlin set certain conditions and then tried to closely monitor his every step and deed through kgb agents.

“To Involve the Vatican in Cooperation Along the Ukrainian Line”

In 1963, a decisive event took place in church life. Under pressure from the world community, as well as thanks to the petitions of Pope John XXIII and American President John F. Kennedy, the then leader of the ussr, nikita khrushchev, agreed to release from the camp Josyf Slipyi, at that time Metropolitan of Galicia and Archbishop of Lviv. This happened against the background of the settlement of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which almost led to World War III.

By that time, Slipyi had served a total of 18 years of exile in the camps of siberia, mordovia, the komi autonomous soviet socialist republic, and the krasnoyarsk territory. He was constantly subjected to physical and psychological pressure, was ill for a long time, and was repeatedly on the verge between life and death. Despite this, he rejected constant proposals from the soviet authorities to renounce unity with the Bishop of Rome, conversion to Orthodoxy, in particular, to take the post of metropolitan of the kyiv russian orthodox church.

Finally, on January 12, 1963, the presidium of the supreme soviet of the ussr issued a separate resolution to release the Metropolitan. They also granted him a permission to leave for abroad. But it was not an act of rehabilitation or pardon. The wording referred to “release from further serving a sentence” for anti-soviet activities. In addition, they insisted that J. Slipyi should not tell abroad in public about his stay in prisons and camps, should not engage in political activities, and that the Vatican should guarantee that the Metropolitan would not return to Lviv and head the UGCC, liquidated by the kremlin in 1946 with the direct participation of stalin's special services. He was not even given permission to visit Lviv. The route from moscow to Rome was laid through belarus.

In other, secret instructions, the kgb was tasked with monitoring J. Slipyi’s life and activities abroad, taking control of his correspondence with relatives, friends and acquaintances, studying his contacts, learning in advance about plans and intentions. At first, this was done through the available agents in the church environment in the ussr, but soon, due to the lack of necessary information, they decided to find the source of information directly in the Vatican.

Such an opportunity occurred in 1968. At that time a group of tourists from Italy came to Lviv. In it there was a 48-year-old man, the son of a priest from Sambir district of Lviv region. As the Lviv kgb officers found out, in 1938, as a citizen of Poland, he left for Italy, where he graduated from the Vatican's Theological Seminary, took a vow to lead a celibate life, was granted the rank of priest of the Greek Catholic Church and Italian citizenship. His sister lived in Lviv. He had an opportunity to meet and talk with her during his visit. But to see other relatives who lived near the regional center, he had to obtain permission from the visa and registration department.

When the foreigner came for permission, a kgb officer was already waiting for him. He introduced himself as an employee of the visa and registration department. He was friendly, asked about Italy, the Vatican, life abroad, and relatives in Ukraine. He quickly provided all the necessary documents. In addition, he promised to make permission to visit Kyiv. Such a trip soon took place. Communication gradually grew into friendly contacts. At the same time, the kgb opened a case against the foreigner entitled “Monakh” (“Monk”- Transl.).

After another visit to Lviv, relations with him were transferred to a conspiratorial basis and soon he was recruited. At this, “Monakh” refused to sign and provide any written testimony. But the kgb did without it. The entire recruitment conversation and consent to cooperation were recorded on a voice recorder and supplemented with photos from a hidden camera. Later, he was told about that, and then the issue of further cooperation was finally resolved.

According to declassified documents from the archives of the Intelligence, the information received from “Monakh” immediately became a subject of particular interest in Kyiv and in moscow. They were very pleased with his wide possibilities. It turned out that he was teaching the Ukrainian language, literature and world history at the Minor Ukrainian Theological Seminary. He also spoke Italian, French and German. He also performed the duties of the head of the Pilgrim and Tourist Office of the Vatican City State and was acquainted with many high-ranking officials.

“Monakh” has provided information about the teachers of the Seminary, – points out one of the papers, – named the graduates of 1970 who left for different countries of Europe and America. In addition, he described his ties among representatives of the senior clergy of the Vatican, who lead the Uniate Greek Catholic Church in Europe and America. The initial analysis of the information received from “Monakh” about specific persons showed that many of them are on the operational register of the kgb, and some are subjects to active intelligence cultivation” (BSA of the SZR of Ukraine. – F. 1. Case 13400. – Vol. 1. – P. 88).

It was still important for the kgb to learn as much as possible about the agent's political views, his attitude to the Ukrainian issue and the activities of the émigré centers. It depended on this whether he would provide information about the active members of those centers and their plans, or whether the issue of Ukraine would be “sacred and inviolable” for him because of his deeply patriotic convictions.

According to the documents, at the first stage, “Monakh” tried to avoid discussing political issues. At this, he referred to the statute of “Salesians”, according to which church ministers are prohibited from engaging in politics. But he was patiently “treated ideologically by kgb officers” and encouraged to be frank and to voice his position. Eventually, he stated that “the ideology of Ukrainian nationalists has always been alien to him”, and he condemns the activities of the insurgents on the territory of Ukraine in the post-war years. He also “approves of the policy of the soviet state, is satisfied with the position of his relatives in the soviet society, and is an opponent of the policy of imperialist powers”.

This position, as noted in one of the documents, was influenced by the fact that “in “Monakh”’s family there were and are no convinced Ukrainian nationalists, his parents are sub-Carpathian Ruthenians by origin, do not support the ideas of Ukrainian bourgeois nationalism, and this had a beneficial effect on “Monakh”. This was quite enough to safely use the agent in all the kgb activities abroad.

Therefore, it was decided in the future “to involve him in cooperation between Ukraine and the Vatican”. And when they found out that he was personally acquainted with Josyf Slipyi, the work with him acquired a special character. It turned out that the agent's father and J. Slipyi studied together at the theological academy. The Cardinal (this title was granted to him in 1965) often recalled this with warmth during his meetings with “Monakh”. Hence the friendly attitude to him, and the urge to engage in scientific work, and other advice and recommendations.

Given this, the kgb demanded from the agent as much information as possible about Y. Slipyj. And he regularly provided such information. One of the papers states as follows: “After his arrival from the soviet union, Josyf Slipyi was received in Italy, the USA, Australia, Canada, Germany and other countries as a national hero who endured years of exile and remained true to his beliefs as a fighter for the “Independent Ukraine” and the Ukrainian church. In honor of Slipyj, the Vatican organized a large reception, at which he was received personally by Pope Ioannes XXIII. Settling Slipyi in a specially allocated apartment, the Pope, according to “Monakh”, in a conversation with Josyf Slipyj, said: “Live in this light apartment and warm up from siberian frosts. You still have a lot to do for your people”(BSA of the SZR of Ukraine. – F. 1. – Case 13400. – Vol. 1. –P. 184–185).

Another document supplements this information: “In “Monakh”’s words, Cardinal Slipyj, having arrived in the Vatican from the soviet union, aims all his activities at uniting the Ukrainian emigration on a religious basis. In his sermons and speeches in the press, he calls to for religious and national unity of believers (Uniates). He has authority among Ukrainian emigrees. Nationalists have hailed him as a national hero who escaped from kgb camps, although Slipyi himself avoids talking about being in prison. In the Vatican, Slipyi is also given great honors. At the Council and Congresses of the Vatican, his is a place of honor next to Pope Paul VI...” (BSA of the SZR of Ukraine. – F. 1. – Case 13400. – Vol. 1. –P. 61).

“To Prevent Cardinal Slipyi from Creating Ukrainian Patriarchate”

In the first year of his stay in the West, Josyf Slipyi fulfilled his and Andrey Sheptytsky's dream by founding the Ukrainian Catholic University in Rome and a few branches around the world. And in his first speech at the Second Vatican Council in October 1963, he voiced the Greek Catholics’ desire to obtain the status of a Patriarchate.

“Monakh” directly monitored the process, and later reported on it during a regular meeting with his kgb curator. In particular, he pointed out that Y. Slipyi, despite his senior age and hard life in exile, which undermined his health, from the first days of his stay in Rome showed great activity in church life. The agent described him as “an intelligent and strong-willed person who has the ability to navigate well in the situation”.

“An example of the ability to navigate in the situation”, says the kgb document, “was the fact that “Monakh” told about. Taking advantage of the friendly attitude of Pope John XXIII, the Congregation of the Eastern Churches and all the Ukrainian émigrés, who from the moment of his arrival in Rome welcomed him as a national hero who bore the burden of the Siberian camps and did not betray his convictions, Cardinal Slipyi tried to use this situation to achieve his innermost goal – creation of the Ukrainian Patriarchate. At first, according to “Monakh”, he succeeded to a certain extent. A halo of glory was created around him, the overwhelming majority of Ukrainian emigrees supported him” (BSA of the SZR of Ukraine. – F. 1. Case 13400. – Vol. 1. –P. 173–174).

J. Slipyi persistently defended the idea of granting the UGCC the status of a Patriarchate. Along the way, according to archival documents, he had to conduct intense discussions with individual Ukrainian Bishops from a number of European and American countries. Having received information about this, the kgb decided to take advantage of the opportunity and play on certain contradictions. In particular, they intended to influence church leaders through agents abroad. And to this end, they demanded that “Monakh” learn about the following:

- who heads the organizing committee for the creation of the Catholic Patriarchate and is part of it, biographical information and characteristics of those persons, on what forces the leaders of the Uniate Church in the Vatican intend to rely in the implementation of their plan;

- who of the highest Ukrainian clergymen are in opposition to Cardinal Y. Slipyi on the issue of the creation of the Patriarchate, biographical information and characteristics on them;

- by what motives those persons were guided when solving this issue, what the essence of their contradictions with the plans of J. Slipyi and his environment is;

- Ukrainian emigration abroad and the OUN’s attitude to J. Slipyi's plans to create a Patriarchate;

- how the leaders of the OUN National Centers take part in the creation of the Patriarchate, in what forms this cooperation is expressed and at what level it is being carried out.

According to archival documents, some Bishops were in no hurry to support the idea of creating a Patriarchate “'for fear of losing their power, while becoming completely dependent on the “Patriarch” Josyf Slipyi”. There was also great resistance from the Vatican, which set the condition that this status would be granted to the UGCC only abroad, and not within Ukraine. The Holy See did not want to quarrel with moscow. J. Slipyi did not agree to this. He believed that the church was single, and so should be the Patriarchate. Then the Vatican refused. It was bitter news. But the Cardinal did not give up.

As noted in the operational materials of the kgb, on the initiative of Josyf Slipyi, “the Synod of Ukrainian Bishops” was created. It included US Metropolitan Synyshyn, Bishop Buchko, Metropolitan Hermaniuk of Canada, and Bishop Sapelyak (Argentina)”. The issue of creating a Patriarchate was also vigorously discussed at the meeting. In view of this, “Monakh” was given the task to find out “what caused Cardinal Slipyi’s sharp anti-soviet speech at the meeting of the “synod” and his violation of his obligations not to deal with political issues. What is Pope Paul VI’s reaction to the course of the “synod” and Slipyi’s speech” (BSA of the SZR of Ukraine. – F. 1. Case 13400. – Vol. 1. –P. 366).

Those events took place already under Pope Paul VI in 1971. “Monakh” told a kgb officer about them in detail during a regular meeting. At that meeting he informed that he personally voted against the creation of the Patriarchate. Probably, that was what his curators advised him to do. Obviously, it was more important for the kgb to prevent the creation of the Patriarchate than some minor problems in interpersonal relations between the agent and J. Slipyi.

“Monakh” added the words”, reads the paper on the meeting with the agent, “which Pope Paul VI said about the patriarchate: “... Creation of a Patriarchate is out of the question now, because the historical conditions for its creation have not yet developed and no one knows when they will take shape”. Thus, according to “Monakh”, Pope Paul VI wanted to emphasize that now the Vatican is pursuing a policy of rapprochement with the soviet union, hoping to obtain some concessions through the church in soviet Baltic states, while the creation of a Patriarchate may negatively affect the Vatican's relations with the ussr along the state line, which have recently been improving.”(BSA of the SZR of Ukraine, F.1, Case 13400. – Vol. 1. – P. 176).

In another document, dated 1972, the agent appears under a new code name – “Vernyi”(“Faithful – Transl.). In the section entitled “On the Situation in the Top Uniate Circles After the Failure of Attempts to Create a Ukrainian Uniate Catholic Patriarchate”, the previous information is confirmed and supplemented. In particular, the following is pointed out: “As “Vernyi” has already reported earlier, in the highest Uniate circles of Rome, Western Europe and the American continent, it was believed that the decision of Pope Paul VI to refuse Slipyi and his supporters to create a Ukrainian Uniate Catholic Patriarchate was mainly influenced by the Vatican’s policy of rapprochement with the moscow orthodox patriarchate and strengthening the position of the Roman Catholic Church on this basis (Baltic republics, Western Belarus, Ukraine), which has been preserved on the territory of the ussr”(BSA of the SZR of Ukraine. – F. 1. Case 13400. – Vol. 1. –P. 357).

“The Meeting Point Is at the Bernini Fountain”

The KGB considered “Monakh”- “Vernyi” to be an especially valuable agent. They thoroughly worked out for him the methods of communication for all possible cases. The date and place of the meeting abroad were to be communicated in correspondence with his sister. To do this, a trusting relationship was established with her. At first, Switzerland was chosen as the best place for the meeting, where the agent sometimes went for vacation or treatment. From there, he had to write a letter to his sister about his whereabouts and include a phone number by which he could be reached. The sister had to immediately report this to the kgb officer. Soon, another country was chosen – Austria, Vienna, near the monument to Maria Theresa.

For a meeting in Rome, he was to be sent a letter of domestic content on behalf of his sister. It had to contain the following phrase: “Cousin Victor is going to the seaside on vacation, where he will stay from... to...”. This meant that the officer would be in Rome during the specified period and would wait on the Sunday closest to the specified date at 12.00 at the Bernini Fountain in the square in front of St. Peter's Basilica. Alternate meeting – at the same place the next day from 18.00 to 18.30.

Alarms were also discussed with the agent. If, upon his return to Rome, he was subjected to checking by the security services or foreign Ukrainian émigré structures, he had to put an exclamation mark in a letter to his sister after addressing her. In addition, the word “cousin” should have been used in the text of the letter. In the absence of verification, the exclamation mark and the word “cousin” should not be used.

During several visits to Lviv, he was constantly met by two kgb officers who were supposed to come to him in Rome. At those meetings, he was given a list of tasks and had to report on them next time. They included:

- to collect information about the activities, tasks, structure, number of employees of the Congregation of Eastern Churches, the Congregation of Non-Believers, the Secretariat of State (MFA) of the Vatican, characteristics and biographical information on them;

- to obtain information about the activities of Vatican educational institutions, in particular about Ukrainian theological educational institutions (structure, whom they train, for what purpose, to what countries they send graduates, etc.);

- Vatican Radio, with whom of the employees he is acquainted;

- activities of the Ukrainian Exarchate in Munich;

- channels of communication between the Uniate Center abroad and personally Josyf Slipyi with the Uniates living in the ussr, and how this is carried out;

- characteristics and biographical information on the leaders of the Ukrainian Uniate Church, their relations with Josyf Slipyi;

- to provide a full description of the new rector of the “Ukrainian Catholic University” Pochayevskyi;

- with whom of the leaders of the OUN Josyf Slipyi maintains contacts, at what level and how;

- what motives Josyf Slipyi is guided by, establishing contacts with statesmen of a number of capitalist countries, in particular Germany and Italy.

The information provided by the agent shows that he was well versed in the affairs of the Vatican, in the work of educational institutions, personally knew many church figures, including Bishops and Metropolitans of the UGCC from the USA, Canada, Great Britain, Argentina, Germany, Yugoslavia, and gave them extensive characteristics. “In terms of his ecclesiastical rank”, one of the papers says, “Monakh” stands much lower than the above-mentioned authorities, but as a priest with extensive monastic experience, he enjoys respect. This is also facilitated by the fact that he is the son of a Greek Catholic priest, whom most of them know, and therefore he has the opportunity to communicate with them when they come to Rome”. (BSA of the SZR of Ukraine, F.1 – Case 13400. – Vol. 1. –P. 63).

But over time, they began to demand more from him. Especially after moving to Munich, where he began to work as a teacher at the center for retraining Ukrainian Catholic priests, which operated at one of the monasteries. At the same time, the kgb knew that many well-known figures of Ukrainian émigré centers lived in Munich. Therefore, the agent began to be tasked with infiltrating these centers, in particular the Foreign Units of the OUN. He was persistently pushed to establish contacts with Yaroslav Stetsko and other Ukrainian figures, and this, as it soon turned out, was a mistake in working with him.

“Monakh”- “Vernyi” was far from the ideology of the OUN and the Ukrainian national liberation movement in general. Moreover, in his environment, he repeatedly praised the policy of the ussr. This was the reason for a suspicious attitude to him on the part of the church leadership at the place of his new work. As he admitted at a regular meeting with an officer in Vienna, he is “suspected of having ties with the kgb and pro-soviet sentiments, about which Bishop P. Kornelyak had a high-pitched conversation with him”. All this frightened him, and he began to avoid contact.

On the other hand, kgb curators tried for some time to induce the agent to find out the plans of the OUN leadership in Munich, but to no avail. After the death of his parents, he stopped visiting Lviv region. Besides, he lost his former close relationship with Josyf Slipyi, for the surveillance of whom he was once involved. Therefore, “due to the loss of intelligence abilities”, further work with him was stopped. But they did not cease to keep Josyf Slipyi himself under operational control. This was done through other intelligence abilities to the last days of his life.

Therefore, the declassified documents are another confirmation that the kgb, despite the “gesture of goodwill”, never left Josyf Slipyi alone and tried in every possible way to hinder him and interfere in the affairs of the Ukrainian Church in the diaspora. And the Cardinal himself did not pay attention to any obligations to the kremlin leadership in exchange for his releasing, if there were any.

Josyf Slipyi died on September 7, 1984 in Rome. He did not live only a few years to the legalization of the UGCC in Ukraine. According to his will, his body was transported to Lviv and buried in 1992 in St. Yuriy’s Cathedral.