On this day in 1962, the Vatican and Russian Orthodox Church signed the Metz Accord, in Metz, France. This secret agreement allowed for the Russian Church to send observers to the Second Vatican Council in exchange for the Catholic Church not condemning the Soviet Union’s atheistic communism.
Since eliminating religion was part of its ideology, the Soviets spent decades executing and torturing clergy, sending churchgoers to labor camps and closing churches. To make matters worse, the policy was not consistent. For example, Premier Joseph Stalin began promoting the Russian Orthodox Church in 1945 to boost Soviet morale following World War II, but then Nikita Khrushchev reversed it by beginning his own campaign against the church in 1959.
When the Second Vatican Council announced that it would meet, it was apparent that a condemnation of communism would be damning to Soviet “diplomacy” and its efforts to expand the ideology into other countries. So the Cardinal of the Curia, Eugène Tisserant, who represented Pope John XXIII, and Nikodin, who represented the Russian Orthodox Church, met and reached this secret but monumental agreement.
Two months later, more than 2,000 bishops, sisters, observers and laymen began the first of four sessions between 1962 and 1965. Vatican II produced 16 documents that laid the foundation for the modern Catholic Church. Sadly, communism was not part of the discussion.