This photo taken on October 12, 2014, shows the exterior of a church in Loikaw, Kayah state, eastern Myanmar. / Credit: Ye Aung Thu/AFP via Getty Images Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 29, 2023 / 16:30 pm (CNA). The pastoral center of Christ the King Cathedral in Loikaw, Myanmar, was bombed on Nov. 26 and occupied by the Burmese military the next day, according to reporting by Agenzia Fides, the news arm of Pontifical Mission Societies.Though no one was killed in the bombing, the pastoral center’s ceiling collapsed and Bishop Celso Ba Shwe and the 80 refugees taking shelter in the church were forced to flee, per the Hong Kong Catholic news service UCA News.Shwe said in a statement published by Agenzia Fides that “the Burmese army tried to take the Christ the King Cathedral complex three times” before finally occupying it on Nov. 27.“As a local bishop,” Shwe said, “I, together with the priests, tried to convince the military generals of the importance of the religious sites and asked them to leave the place to spare, where displaced people are also welcomed.”Current Situation of Kayah State, Diocese of Loikaw, Myanmar, as of November 27, 2023. pic.twitter.com/gQibCGFyEd— Kadang Dominiko (@KadangDominiko) November 29, 2023 The cathedral complex had been sheltering about 82 refugees from throughout Myanmar’s Kayah state, a region that has become a major battleground between the Burmese military junta and several rebel militias.According to LiCAS news, an Asian Catholic news source, the bishop also reported that “50 soldiers came and occupied [the cathedral] to make use of it as a shield.” Agenzia Fides reported Shwe saying that many elderly, disabled, sick, women, and children were among those taking refuge in the cathedral complex. Ten priests and 16 religious were also among those taking shelter in the cathedral. Now, the refugees and bishop have fled the cathedral to seek refuge in other churches or the nearby wilderness.Myanmar, which is bordered by India to the west and China to the east, is a majority Buddhist country that has large Catholic and Protestant minorities in some states. The country has been caught in a bloody civil war since 2021 after local militias united to oppose the military junta that had seized control of the government earlier that year.This is not the first time that Catholic churches and holy sites have been caught in the crossfire in the ongoing war. Catholic sites in Kayah state and in the Loikaw Diocese have been especially hard hit by military strikes.On Aug. 12 Mary Mother of Mercy Church in the village of Htee Thaw Ku in the Loikaw Diocese was hit by air strikes that destroyed the church’s ceiling and windows, according to UCA News.In March 2022, CNA reported that Myanmar military airstrikes hit Our Lady of Fatima Church in Saun Du La village and the Sisters of Reparation convent, a home for retired nuns in Kayah state.In total, according to Agenzia Fides, 21 of the diocese’s 41 parishes have been affected. The Diocese of Loikaw has about
This work of art was displayed at St. Peter's on the occasion of the Vatican's Celebration of the Canonization of 117 Vietnamese Martyrs on July 19, 1988. / Credit: Public domain CNA Staff, Nov 24, 2023 / 06:00 am (CNA). Today, Nov. 24, is the feast day of St. Andrew Dung-Lac and companions, a group of 117 martyrs, led by Father Andrew, who died for the Catholic faith in Vietnam during a 19th-century persecution. The group was made up of 96 Vietnamese, 11 Spaniards, and 10 French. Roughly half were clergy and half were laypeople, including a 9-year-old child. Some of the priests were Dominicans; others were diocesan priests who belonged to the Paris Mission Society.According to the Vatican, Father Andrew Dung-Lac was born with the name Dung An-Tran to a poor family in northern Vietnam around the year 1795. When his family moved to Hanoi to find work, the 12-year-old Dung met a Christian catechist who shared the faith with him and baptized him with the name “Andrew.” The climate at the time was very dangerous for Christians in Vietnam under the Emperor Minh-Mang, who banned foreign missionaries and commanded Vietnamese Christians to trample on crucifixes in order to publically renounce their faith in Jesus Christ. (Japanese authorities had for years forced Christians to do something similar, a practice that is dramatized in the film “Silence.”) Later, in 1823, Andrew was ordained a priest, and his preaching and simplicity of life led many others to baptism, despite the young priest needing to be hidden by the faithful in order to keep him safe from the emperor. He was imprisoned multiple times and each time was ransomed by the Catholic faithful. Many Christians during this time were suffering brutal martyrdoms — strippings, torture, beheadings — and the priest changed him name to Lac in an attempt to avoid detection. It’s estimated that from 1630 to 1886, between 130,000 and 300,000 Christians were martyred in Vietnam, while others were forced to flee to the mountains and the forests or be exiled to other countries.In 1839, the Vatican recounts, he was arrested again along with another Vietnamese priest, Father Peter Thi, to whom Dung-Lac had visited in order to go to confession. The two were ransomed, then arrested again, tortured, and finally beheaded in Hanoi on Dec. 21, 1839. He is the patron saint of Vietnam. Described as the “Nero of Indochina” for his harsh persecutions, Minh Mang’s reign ended the next year. Pope John Paul II canonized the 117 martyrs together on June 19, 1988. At the time, the Vatican said, the communist government of Vietnam did not permit a single representative from the country to attend the canonization. But 8,000 Vietnamese Catholics from the diaspora were there, “filled with joy to be the children of this suffering Church.”
World Youth Day pilgrims in Panama City from the Archdiocese of Seoul. / Jonah McKeown/CNA. Rome Newsroom, Nov 23, 2023 / 07:45 am (CNA). The archbishop of Seoul has said that he wants to invite young North Koreans to the Catholic Church’s next World Youth Day.Archbishop Peter Chung Soon-taick shared at a peace forum in Seoul this week that he plans to invite a youth delegation from North Korea to the 2027 World Youth Day to take place in the South Korean capital.The invitation will be sent to the North Korean government through the appropriate channels, according to Agenzia Fides, the information service of the Pontifical Mission Societies.North Korea has long been identified as the worst country in the world for Christian persecution. The 2022 report by the International Bar Association’s War Crimes Committee and the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea said that Christians in North Korea are particularly targeted and tortured within the country’s prison system.In contrast with North Korea, Christianity in South Korea has experienced rapid growth in recent decades, according to the Pew Research Center. In particular, the Catholic population in South Korea has increased by nearly 50% in the past 20 years.Chung, as the archbishop of Seoul, is also the apostolic administrator of Pyongyang, North Korea. He said that he is committed to “the mission of peace and reconciliation.”“Missionary work in North Korea is not only my vocation as apostolic administrator of Pyongyang, but also my responsibility as a Korean citizen,” Chung said.The archbishop spoke at the 2023 Korean Peninsula Peace Sharing Forum held on Nov. 18 at the Catholic University of Korea. The annual event organized by the Catholic Church brings together religious leaders, diplomats, academics, and South Korean government officials.Pope Francis announced earlier this year that the next World Youth Day will be held in Seoul in 2027.The Catholic Church has celebrated World Youth Day (WYD) in different cities around the world since the event was established by Pope John Paul II in 1985. The weeklong international gathering is typically held about every three years in July or August and has drawn upwards of 3 million people in past years.
Jimmy Lai at a Hong Kong protest. / Credit: Courtesy of the Acton Institute Rome Newsroom, Nov 21, 2023 / 16:00 pm (CNA). A legislative council member from the pro-Beijing New People’s Party has criticized a joint petition signed by 10 Catholic bishops, including three American prelates, calling for the immediate release of pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai.“The Catholic leaders’ call for Lai’s release is a striking example of religious power being commandeered for political ends,” Dominic Lee Tsz-king said, according to a report in the China Daily on Nov. 15. “The very fact that Lai is a Catholic seems to be their only justification for their demand,” he continued. “I advise those religious leaders to know when to quit, or else they will have a heavy price to pay.” On Sep. 28, the day that marked Lai’s 1,000th day in prison, Lee wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter: “Western media has exploited [Lai’s imprisonment] as a basis for false accusations about Hong Kong’s press freedom.”This Tues was the 1000th day of Jimmy Lai's custody, an event that Western media has exploited as a basis for false accusations about Hong Kong's press freedom.The reality is, Lai being in jail has nothing to do with press freedom, but because he has violated numerous laws.— Dominic Lee 李梓敬 (@dominictsz) September 28, 2023 “The reality is, Lai being in jail has nothing to do with press freedom, but because he has violated numerous laws,” Lee continued in his post on X. Lai, the founder of the now-defunct pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, was arrested in December 2020 and was sentenced in April 2021 to 20 months in jail for unlawful assembly during the 2019 protests against a proposed amendment to the law that would have allowed extradition to mainland China. In December 2022, Lai was convicted of fraud, resulting from a contractual dispute involving the use of office space at Apple Daily’s headquarters, and was sentenced to serve an additional prison term of five years and nine months. Lai faces additional, more serious accusations under the sweeping National Security Law, which include charges of sedition and conspiracy to collude with foreign forces. Lai’s trial, which was scheduled for September, was postponed by a Hong Kong judge and is expected to commence on Dec. 18, the Hong Kong Free Press reported. If convicted Lai could face up to a life sentence in prison.Following the release of the Nov. 1 petition, the government of Hong Kong issued an immediate statement condemning it as “slanderous” and tantamount to an interference in the internal affairs of the Special Administrative Region. “The HKSAR [Hong Kong Special Administrative Region] government firmly rejects and strongly disapproves of the fact-twisting remarks made by the foreign Catholic leaders to inappropriately interfere in the HKSAR’s internal affairs and the HKSAR courts’ independent exercise of judicial power,” the government statement said. “Any person, regardless of his or her identity, who attempts to interfere with the judicial proceedings in the HKSAR in order to procure a defendant’s evasion of the criminal justice process is blatantly undermining the
Archbishop Li Shan of Beijing, president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, the state-managed Catholic organization in mainland China controlled by the CCP’s United Front Work Department. / Credit: Bundesministerium für Europa, Integration und Äusseres, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons Rome Newsroom, Nov 20, 2023 / 17:40 pm (CNA). Archbishop Joseph Li Shan of Beijing stressed the importance of building unity between Chinese Catholics across the mainland and Hong Kong by promoting Catholic spirituality and evangelization efforts in line with the process of sinicization following his three-day visit to Hong Kong.Sinicization is a process by which religious practice is enculturated into the context of Chinese society so that it is assimilated within the local customs, styles, and language. However, for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) it has come to take on a new, political dimension whereby religious belief and practice are modified in order to fit into the framework of the party’s ideology.“We pray that under the guidance of the revelation of the Holy Spirit of God, under the direction of the spirit of the Church’s communion, and under the diligent exploration of all of us, the Chinese Church will be able to promote the work of evangelization and spirituality along the direction of sinicization,” Li said after his Nov. 13-15 visit.Li’s much-anticipated visit was important as it marked the first time China’s top mainland bishop visited Hong Kong. Cardinal Stephen Chow extended the invitation after his own visit to Beijing from April 17-21, which was the first time since the handover of Hong Kong from the British to the Chinese in 1997 that the bishop of Hong Kong visited the mainland.The visit also was significant because of tensions between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China following the unilateral appointment by China of several bishops, a breach of the terms of the Sino-Vatican Accord, which was renewed for the second time in 2022.Li’s comments opened the theological conference “The Synodal Church and the Church in China: Communion, Participation, Mission” on the final day of his visit.“The Church should keep abreast of the times and promptly adjust the focus, methods, and modes of evangelization as society develops and progresses. It should strive to fulfill its proper functions, engage in social responsibility, and pay attention to people’s livelihoods,” Li said, the Diocese of Hong Kong’s news outlet, The Sunday Examiner, reported.Prior to the conference, on Nov. 15, Li concelebrated Mass with Cardinal Stephen Chow and Cardinal John Tong Hon, 84, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Cardinal Joseph Zen, 91, also bishop emeritus of the region, who has been a vocal opponent of the Sino-Vatican Agreement, was not present.Ahead of Li’s visit to Hong Kong, Zen wrote: “Never consecrate a bishop without permission. Sacraments can be sacrificed, but faith cannot be sacrificed! Remember! Remember!”During the Mass, Chow expressed his desire for communion among Chinese Catholics.“This is a Church of communion, a Church of the Chinese people. So, with thankfulness, we ask that
Archbishop Li Shan of Beijing, president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, the state-managed Catholic organization in mainland China controlled by the CCP’s United Front Work Department. / Credit: Bundesministerium für Europa, Integration und Äusseres, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons Rome Newsroom, Nov 14, 2023 / 12:30 pm (CNA). The archbishop of Beijing is visiting Hong Kong this week in a trip that marks a historic first since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) severed diplomatic relations with the Vatican 70 years ago.Archbishop Li Shan is the president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, the state-managed Catholic organization in mainland China controlled by the CCP’s United Front Work Department. The Beijing bishop’s five-day visit to the Diocese of Hong Kong is at the invitation of Cardinal Stephen Chow, the city’s bishop, who has said that he sees Hong Kong as “a bridge Church” with the mainland.Li was ordained archbishop of Beijing in 2007 with the approval of Pope Benedict XVI after being named to the post by Chinese authorities months prior. He was the first bishop to be consecrated in China following the publication of Benedict XVI’s 2007 letter to Catholics in China. Earlier this year, Li prayed for the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China “as soon as possible” during a Mass at the diocesan seminary, according to the information service of the Pontifical Mission Societies.The Chinese bishop began his visit to Hong Kong on Monday night with vespers in the chapel of Hong Kong’s diocesan offices followed by an exchange of gifts. Li presented Chow with a stained-glass image of Venerable Matteo Ricci, and Chow in return gifted a wood panel painting of Sts. Peter and Paul. During his time in Hong Kong, Li will meet with staff from different diocesan offices to promote future exchanges between the Diocese of Hong Kong and the Archdiocese of Beijing. The archbishop of Beijing will also visit Hong Kong’s Holy Spirit Seminary and the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Chow told the Associated Press ahead of the visit that he believes that Li’s visit is significant because of the “human connection” it promotes. Chow visited Beijing in April, becoming the first bishop of Hong Kong to make an official visit to the Chinese capital in nearly 30 years.“With that connection, we can walk together, we can talk about how to strengthen the structure, how to make some policy, even in terms of policy in the long term, (and) how would that help us to witness for the love of God. Now, I’m not saying this as a very abstract thing. Love is really the remedy for a lot of problems in the world today,” the bishop of Hong Kong said.
null / esfera/Shutterstock. CNA Staff, Nov 10, 2023 / 17:13 pm (CNA). A Chinese bishop who was appointed last April against the wishes of the Vatican has renewed his commitment to implement the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s program of religious sinicization in his diocese. Bishop Joseph Shen Bin of Shanghai made his comments in an interview with the state news agency, China News Service.“Sinicization is a directional issue: a signpost and a direction to adapt to the socialist society as well as an inherent rule and a fundamental requirement for the survival and development of the Catholic Church in China itself,” Shen said, UCA News reported.He went on to say that “sinicization is not to change religious beliefs” but emphasized that Catholic teaching should “align” with the party’s ideology. “This means to provide the explanations of theological classics, doctrines, and canons that align with the requirements of socialist core values. Through cultural infusion, the Church incorporates elements and characteristics of Chinese culture in Church liturgy, architecture, arts, and more; aiming to establish a Catholic theological framework with Chinese characteristics, which can be used as a guide to put sinicization of Catholicism into practice,” Shen said. Shen serves as the vice chairman of the state-controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and is chairman of the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCAA) — the episcopal conference of the state-sanctioned Church, a body not recognized by the Holy See. Shen made waves when he was unilaterally appointed as bishop of Shanghai in April without a papal mandate, thereby breaking the terms of the contested Sino-Vatican Accord. While the text of the accord is secret, it regulates the appointment of bishops of the mainland — and stipulates that episcopal appointments require approval from both the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China. The provisional agreement first went into effect in 2018 and was subsequently renewed in 2020 and 2022. It will be up for renewal, for a third time, in 2024. Shen was officially installed as bishop of Shanghai on July 15, when Pope Francis decided to retroactively approve his appointment. The Holy See Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said the Holy Father’s decision was made to “heal the canonical irregularity.” He also said the “intention is fundamentally pastoral” and will allow the bishop to “work with greater serenity to promote evangelization and foster ecclesial communion.”Shen’s recent comments come after he gave an extensive, 15-page interview with the diocesan magazine of Shanghai in October where he again emphasized the importance of implementing sinicization for the Church in China. “We must adhere to the principle of patriotism and love for the Church, adhere to the principle of independence and autonomy in running the Church, adhere to the principle of democracy in running the Church, and adhere to the direction of the sinicization of the Catholic Church in China. This is the bottom line, which no one can break, and it is also a high-pressure line, which no one should touch,” Shen said in the October interview. While the process of religious sinicization has a deeper historical connotation of enculturating
Flag of the People's Republic of China. / Credit: Yan Ke / Unsplash (CC0) CNA Staff, Nov 9, 2023 / 16:12 pm (CNA). China passed a “Patriotic Education Law,” further consolidating the Chinese Communist Party’s control over education, including religious education, state-controlled media outlet Xinhua announced last month.The new law, which was passed during a session of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, would require churches and religious groups to adapt their educational activities to promote the party’s official ideology.“The state is to guide and support religious groups, religious institutes, and religious activity sites in carrying out patriotic education activities, enhancing religious professionals’ and believers’ identification with the great motherland, the Chinese people, Chinese culture, the Chinese Communist Party, and socialism with Chinese characteristics,” the new law reads.The law goes on to say that “all levels and types of school shall have patriotic education permeate the entire course of school education” and that even “the parents or other guardians of minors shall include love of the motherland in family education.”Patriotic education has been an imperative of the CCP since the Maoist Revolution to inculcate the party’s official ideology. It has been reimagined during periods of social upheaval, namely during the Cultural Revolution and in the aftermath of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Xi Jinping has put his twist on patriotic education, underpinning it with the ideological doctrine of the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese people.” This mantra is in part centered on the revival of Chinese culture, but it is also predicated on “upholding the leadership of the Communist Party of China and socialism with Chinese characteristics.”This phrase, which was first introduced under Deng Xiaoping, has since been redefined in the Xi Jinping era and was even enshrined in the constitution at the 19th National Congress of the CPC in 2017 as “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.” This ideological refrain, which is immortalized in the general program of the CCP’s constitution, is repeated in article 6 of the Patriotic Education Law and forms the basis for the patriotic curriculum. The law also calls for broader political instruction on the “history of the Communist Party, new China, reform and opening, the development of socialism, and the development of the Chinese people.”Included in Jinping’s “Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” is the program of bringing religious groups and beliefs in line with the party through the process of sinicization. “We will fully implement the party’s basic policy on religious affairs, uphold the principle that religions in China must be Chinese in orientation, and provide active guidance to religions so that they can adapt themselves to socialist society,” Jinping said.In 2017, the CCP released updated Religious Affairs Regulations. This 77-article legislation prescribed that religion must “adhere to the principle of independence and self-governance” to maintain “social harmony.” It also mandated that religious education and sites of worship must be officially approved by and registered with the government. In 2021, Measures on the Management of Religious Clergy was passed, making it compulsory for clergy to register with a government
Hong Kong media tycoon and Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai. / Napa Institute. CNA Staff, Nov 8, 2023 / 18:07 pm (CNA). Multiple Catholic leaders from around the world this week called upon the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to release prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy activist and Catholic Jimmy Lai, who has been imprisoned there for nearly three years. Lai has been an outspoken democracy advocate in Hong Kong for years. He founded the tabloid Apple Daily in 1995 which took a strong pro-democracy stance in the administrative region. Lai was originally arrested in August of 2020 under that year’s controversial national security law, which was passed by China’s communist-controlled government and sharply curtailed free speech in the region in an effort to quash what the Chinese Communist Party considered subversion and sedition in the separately administered region of Hong Kong.The law’s harsh penalties include life in prison for what the government deems sedition or terrorism, including acts such as damaging public transport facilities. Lai himself was accused of colluding with foreign adversaries and conspiracy to defraud. Since then, the activist has been convicted of assembly violations and a fraud charge. In September, he marked his 1,000th day in prison in Hong Kong awaiting trial on further charges. The Apple Daily, meanwhile, ceased publication in 2021 after a government raid and multiple arrests of employees. In a petition this month signed by 10 Catholic bishops and archbishops, the prelates “call[ed] on the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to immediately and unconditionally release Jimmy Lai.” “Mr. Lai’s persecution for supporting pro-democracy causes through his newspaper and in other forums has gone on long enough,” the prelates wrote. “There is no place for such cruelty and oppression in a territory that claims to uphold the rule of law and respect the right to freedom of expression,” they said. “In standing up for his beliefs and committing himself through his faith to challenge autocracy and repression, Jimmy Lai has lost his business, been cut off from his family, and has just surpassed 1,000 days in prison, while facing the prospect of many more years of incarceration to come.” “He is 75 years old,” the bishops said. “He must be freed now.”In a separate press release, the barristers at the human-rights-focused Doughty Street Chambers said Lai “faces a potential life sentence for his peaceful pro-democracy campaigning and his work at Apple Daily.”The barristers noted that the national security law “has been heavily criticized by many governments, international bodies and civil society organizations."Sebastien Lai, the son of Jimmy Jai, said in the press release that he was “grateful and honored to see Catholics and Catholic leaders from around the world speaking out on my father’s behalf, and calling out for his release from unjust imprisonment.”“My father’s faith and belief in right and wrong are key to understanding why my father stood up for democracy for the people of Hong Kong, despite the obvious dangers to his life,” he said. “Even now, imprisoned at 75 years old, his
The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Holy Virgin Mary, Moscow, Russia. / Sergey Ilyin-Mikhalski (Public Domain). Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 27, 2023 / 15:45 pm (CNA). The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of the Mother of God at Moscow is urging the Prince Vladimir Cemetery in Vladimir, Russia, to restore a memorial plaque that honored a Catholic archbishop who was imprisoned by Joseph Stalin’s regime in the Soviet Union until his death.Earlier this month, plaques dedicated to political and religious prisoners who died at Vladimir Central Prison under the communist regime were removed. This included a plaque honoring Archbishop Mecislovas Reinis, whose cause for sainthood is reportedly being investigated. He was imprisoned in the Vladimir Central Prison from 1947 until his death in 1953. “The memory of Reinis is preserved among Catholics in Russia, in particular, a memorial plaque was installed for him in the Church of the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Vladimir,” Father Kirill Gorbunov, the vicar general of the archdiocese, said, according to the state-owned media outlet RIA Novosti. Gorbunov added that Reinis “deserves to have his memory immortalized at the site of his martyrdom” and that “he was a true Christian and shepherd [who] testified his fidelity to Christ by martyrdom in prison, where he was unjustly accused” along with other prisoners of the communist government. Reinis was born in the Russian empire in 1884 and became a priest in 1907 and a bishop in 1926. He led the department of theoretical and experimental psychology at Kaunas University in Lithuania and served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Lithuanian government from 1925 to 1926. The archbishop first faced religious persecution from the Bolsheviks in Lithuania who arrested him in 1919 until he was released to Poland two years later through the Treaty of Riga. He returned to Lithuania where he was arrested again in 1947 after Stalin’s regime annexed the country. He was sentenced to eight years in prison, but only served six before he died in 1953.“He shared the fate of many other believers, including Orthodox bishops who died there, in the Vladimir Central [Prison],” Gorbunov said. “It is also important for us that the life of Archbishop Reinis is inextricably linked with Russian culture — he graduated from the Theological Academy in St. Petersburg, wrote a doctoral thesis on Vladimir Solovyov, and was involved in popularizing Russian philosophy and psychology in the West.”The Estonian Foreign Ministry has also criticized the removal of the plaques, which included one honoring an Estonian general, Johan Laidoner, who led the armed forces during the Estonian War of Independence and against a communist coup attempt in 1924. The government has requested that the plaque be given to Estonia, according to the Estonian publicly funded news outlet Eesti Rahvusringhääling.“Estonia has issued a statement regretting the removal of the Laidoner monument and requesting that the plaque be returned to Estonia, as it is no longer suited for the cemetery in Vladimir,” a spokesperson for the ministry said. “We also want