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Ukraine Catholic leader: government threats will not intimidate Church

Catholic World News - January 15, 2014

The leader of the Ukrainian Catholic Church has vowed that his clergy will not be deterred by the government’s threat to revoke the registration of the Byzantine-rite body.

The Ukrainian Catholic Church (UGCC) has released the full text of a statement by Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, responding to a government complaint that the UGCC clergy had engaged in “systematic disregard for the law” by participating in demonstrations in Kiev’s Independence Square.

Major-Archbishop Shevchuk observed that the government was threatening the activity of the UGCC for “the first time Ukraine’s independence.” He also pointed out that Ukraine is now celebrating the “25th anniversary of the legalization of the UGCC in the former Soviet Union.”

“I hope that the state authorities, especially those entrusted with the task of serving people in guaranteeing their right for religious freedom in Ukraine, will be wise enough not to commence a persecution of the Church,” the Ukrainian prelate said.

Many of the faithful had joined in the peaceful demonstrations in Independence Square, expressing their concern about the government’s decision to distance Ukraine from the European Union, the UGCC leader said. “The presence of the priest there, where his faithful are, is a fundamental part of his pastoral ministry,” he insisted. Priests have the right to pray with their people, he said. “The realization of such a right does not require the special permission of the state.”

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  • Posted by: gary.brisebois1104 - Jan. 15, 2014 8:25 PM ET USA

    Good for him, and well put. I am reminded of the courage and words of Archbishop Damaskinos of Athens, who in 1943 was threatened by the local Schutzstaffel commander, Jürgen Stroop, with execution by firing squad. "According to the traditions of the Greek Orthodox Church, our prelates are hanged, not shot. Please respect our traditions!"

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