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Ukrainian protests aim to purge lingering totalitarian influence, bishop says

CWN - January 27, 2014

Demonstrators who are challenging the Ukrainian government in Kiev are not only opposing a move away from the European community, but also battling to remove the lingering influence of the old Soviet regime, according to a bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.

Bishop Borys Gudziak, who heads the Ukrainian-rite Eparchy (diocese) of France, Belgium, and Luxemburg, defended the protesters in Kiev in interviews with Vatican Radio and with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). The bishop—who doubles as president of Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv—said that the current political crisis in Ukraine is “a battle for dignity.”

“The people are not out on the streets to campaign for a party or candidate,” the bishop told ACN. “They are gathering around principles.” He praised the protesters for their peaceful presence, contrasting their behavior with the violence of the police response. “The legitimacy of the Ukrainian government is predicated by respect for human rights,” he said. “That respect has been neglected and in some cases has been absent” during the confrontations in Kiev, he charged.

Bishop Gudziak reported that each day’s demonstrations in Kiev begin with prayers, and priests have always accompanied the protesters, sometimes hearing confessions. “It is hard to imagine a more prayerful protest in 21st century Europe,” he told ACN.

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