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Russian actions destabilize Ukraine, harm Catholic Church, reports papal nuncio

September 24, 2014

Archbishop Thomas Edward Gullickson, the apostolic nuncio in Ukraine, offered a candid appraisal of the difficulties facing the Church in that country in a September 23 address to officials of the international charity, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

Archbishop Gullickson said that Ukraine today suffers from “destabilization, much of it attributable to the depredation carried out and still continuing at the hands of Ukraine’s own criminal oligarchy, exacerbated by Russian aggression against its territorial integrity and sovereignty.” In an overall assessment of the crisis, he said:

The undeclared war which the Russian Federation is waging against Ukraine has in effect destabilized a country already sorely tried by the depredation of homegrown and foreign profiteers (not only from Russia), who have torn its economic and social fabric limb from limb especially in the period since independence in 1991. Above and beyond this, Ukraine is just now coming around to playing catch-up in addressing the repair or removal of structures of servitude from its Soviet Communist past, which other countries in Central and Eastern Europe were able to address and at least begin to change almost immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The American-born archbishop said that Catholic churches have been badly damaged in recent fighting, and even after the violence ends there will be heavy costs to rebuild and repair them. Catholic priests and religious have been driven out of some areas where Russian forces are active—particularly in Crimea—and it is questionable whether they will be allowed to return.

“If Russian aggression ended tomorrow, apart from rebuilding the east, Ukraine would still have enormous challenges to meet in order to root out corruption and establish a just society,” the Vatican representative said.

On a more positive note, Archbishop Gullickson remarked on the enormous growth of the Byzantine-rite Ukrainian Catholic Church since the fall of the Communist regime. “Since 1989,” he said, “the number of Greek-Catholic priests in Ukraine has climbed from around 300 to over 3,000.”

Like other Eastern Catholic churches, the Ukrainian Catholic Church allows the ordination of married men, and Archbishop Gullickson pointed out that most of the new priests in Ukraine have wives and children—adding to the costs of supporting their parishes. ACN has provided support to the Ukrainian Catholic Church for years, including subsidies for nearly all seminarians.


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