CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 18 May 2019

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Millions of Ukrainians can’t be extremists

HONG KONG (SE): The ongoing street violence and protests in the Ukraine have prompted Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk, from the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, to publicly accuse the police of abusing the very people that they are employed to protect.

The Religious Information Service Ukraine quoted the patriarch as saying on Chanel Five, “I think the next step of the renewed government will be to restructure law enforcement. Because currently the people feel disgust toward the current ranks.”

The head of the Greek Catholic Church in the Ukraine added that the current government does not understand that now the standoff with the people is not about the dissatisfaction of a small group of radicals.

He adds that it is not a conflict between the government and the opposition either, but in is in fact, between the government and the Ukrainian people.

“Millions of people cannot be called extremists. Millions of people are citizens of Ukraine, who must be respected and heard,” the patriarch said in a hard hitting interview.

He called the standoff a revolution for dignity, which he said both the government and the opposition are denying to the people of the country.

He also described it as a crisis of faith, as he noted it is impossible for the people to have faith in either the reigning government or the boisterous opposition.

Both the Church in Australia and United States of America (US) have come out in support of the oppressed people who are standing in the streets of the Ukraine in defiance of their government and ruling oligarchy.

“The Catholic Church in Australia stands with all Ukrainians of good will in praying for a peaceful resolution to this conflict,” the bishops say in a statement released at the conclusion of their plenary meeting in Sydney on January 29.

“Over the last two months we have seen the vast numbers of Ukrainians gathered in the Majdan in Kyiv standing as faithful witnesses to faith, human dignity and the democratic process, which are fundamental for a good and peaceful society,” the bishops of Australia, which has a significant Ukrainian population, say.

“The images of so many priests and religious ministering to their faithful on the squares and streets of Kyiv remind us of the Good Shepherd, always tending the flock entrusted to his care,” the statement, signed by the president of the conference, Archbishop Denis Hart, says.

“The work of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, as well as many other denominations, has been vital in maintaining peace and strengthening the resolve of many to continue their protest peacefully despite the unprovoked attacks,” the statement stresses.

Archbishop Stefan Soroka, of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Philadelphia, the US, has called on all Americans of good will to support the struggle of the people for human dignity.

The archbishop joined the Wall Street Journal in lamenting the silence and lack of action on behalf of Washington.

The Journal put out a strong call for Washington to place a visa ban on Ukrainian officials and business people, as well as a freeze on their US-based assets.

“Silence from the US encourages oppression in Ukraine. We can’t let that happen again to fellow believers who bore so much suffering for so many decades,” Archbishop Soroka said.

He pointed out that western Catholics remember the suffering of the Polish Church under Communism, because of Pope John Paul II’s witness of resistance.

“Less well known, but even more brutal, was the half-century of Soviet persecution experienced by Ukrainian Greek Catholics, who make up the largest Eastern Catholic Church in the world,” the archbishop explained.

“After Communism’s collapse, life for the Church in Ukraine improved. But late last year Ukraine’s leaders shifted back toward the Russian orbit. They cracked down heavily on demonstrations and dissent, killing some protesters and arresting hundreds of others. Christians in Ukraine—Catholics, Orthodox and others—have not been silent,” the archbishop was quoted as saying.

However, while the US government may have been silent, Canada has not been.

“The new laws passed by President Viktor Yanukovych give the Ukrainian government, police and security services harsh new powers that severely limit individual rights and freedoms,” Canada’s ambassador for religious freedom, Andrew Bennett, was quoted as saying in a press release from the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Office in Ottawa, after returning from Kyiv.

“This is fundamentally inconsistent with democratic practice and of grave concern to all who are committed to a free and democratic Ukraine,” Bennett says.

“As Minister (John) Baird (Foreign Affairs) has made clear, Canada strongly condemns the deplorable use of violence against protesters by Ukrainian authorities,” Bennett explained. “Canada strongly supports the Ukrainian people, who have spoken out courageously in support of a free and democratic Ukraine.”

Bennett also spoke with priests and ministers from several denominations in the Ukraine. “Canada notes the important and crucial role played by the clergy and faithful of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and many other religious leaders during the past weeks in encouraging dialogue between all parties and praying for peace in Ukraine,” he added.

The Australian bishops described the clergy of the Ukraine as edifying, saying that they are the epitome of what Pope Francis meant when called for pastors to be with their people, “because a pastor should have the smell of his sheep.”

They point out that they are where their people are at an extremely difficult and dangerous time, calling it a tremendous act of faith in both the people and in God.

They end their statement with a call for prayer for the Ukrainian Catholic Church, as well as many other denominations, describing them as vital in maintaining peace and strengthening the resolve of many to continue their protest peacefully despite the unprovoked attacks.

“We pray for the Church in the Ukraine. We pray for Major Archbishop Sviatoslav, bishops, priests, religious and faithful as they continue to stand together, despite state-sanctioned threats of de-registration and punitive measures to punish the Church for fulfilling her mission to the people entrusted to her care,” the Australian bishops conclude


While the bishops called for prayer, Bennett is calling for action, saying, “Canada will consider all options going forward to make clear that we stand with those who seek to build a peaceful, democratic and prosperous future for Ukrainians.”