Ukrainian Catholic leader blasts Russian Orthodox statements, says Church is being oppressed
August 22, 2014
In a letter to bishops and political leaders around the world, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church said that the Catholic Church is being oppressed in eastern Ukraine.
“For nine months Ukrainians, have been on an arduous pilgrimage from post-Soviet fear to freedom and God-given dignity,” Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk said in an August 21 letter. “With patience, endurance, and great human sacrifice they overcame in February the brutal regime of Viktor Yanukovych. This moral triumph was answered in March by Russia’s territorial annexation of Crimea. Now, for months the country endures foreign-supported destabilization, separatism, and terrorist activity in the Donetsk and Luhansk Regions.”
“All of the Churches and religious organizations of Ukraine stood together against the violence of the Yanukovych regime, the annexation of Crimea, and the division of the country,” he continued. “In annexed Crimea and in the eastern war zone, some of the churches and religious communities have been targeted for discrimination, enduring outright violence. In Crimea the most exposed have been the Muslim Tatars … The existence of Greek and Roman Catholics ministries, Orthodox parishes of the Kyivan Patriarchate, and the Jewish community in Crimea [have] been variously menaced.”
Listing specific incidents of anti-Catholic persecution, the Major Archbishop wrote that
Amidst the horrors of war the tiny Ukrainian Greek and Roman Catholic minority experience oppression on the territories controlled by the “separatists.” Three Catholic priests were kidnapped: Pawel Witek and Wiktor W?sowicz (Roman Catholic), Tykhon Kulbaka (Greek Catholic). The later was kept in captivity for 10 days and deprived of medicine he needed. The episcopal residence of the Greek Catholic bishop in Donetsk was robbed and sealed, depriving him of his chancery and all documentation. The Cathedral yard was hit by “separatist” rocket fire damaging the building and windows with shrapnel. The bishop and almost all Greek Catholic priests were forced to leave the environs of Donetsk. Armed representatives of separatist regime entered the church and desecrated the sanctuary. They “allowed” priests to stay and conduct services but put them on travel restrictions. Terrorists blackmail the clergy by threatening to harm their parishioners.
Most recently, on Saturday, August 16, the small monastery of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate in Donetsk was seized and violated. The sisters who generously and humbly served the community and who were on a summer retreat or at summer camps for children outside of Donetsk cannot now return to their home now being used by the “separatists.”
The Major Archbishop also criticized statements from leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church, stating that “the rhetoric of the Orthodox leadership in Russia” is “becoming increasingly similar to the propaganda of Russian political authorities and media.”
“Ukraine needs the effective support of the global Christian community and support of all people of good will,” he concluded. “In a media context rife with propaganda we ask you to evaluate information critically. We need your prayer, your discernment, your good words and effective deeds. Silence and inaction will lead to further tragedy. The fate of MA [Malaysian Airlines] Flight 17 is an example of what may happen if the terrorist activity is allowed to continue.”
- Letter from His Beatitude Sviatoslav (Shevchuk), Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, on the very difficult situation in Ukraine (UGCC)