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The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, says that the Church is being persecuted in two eastern Ukrainian cities in which pro-Russian separatists have been very active. He reports that, “today our Church in Donetsk and Luhansk is experiencing a martyrdom, and it needs our prayer and support”.
He was speaking last Sunday during the consecration of the newly constructed Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection, the main cathedral of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital. The Apostolic Nuncio to Ukraine, Archbishop Thomas Edward Gullickson, was present. After the service Archbishop Shevchuk blessed an icon of Jesus Christ, especially for Donetsk. “This icon represents God's blessing on this long-suffering city, which today is bleeding,” he said, “and may the Lord hear our prayers and pleas for peace and stop the bloodshed”.
More than 2,000 people have died in fighting between Ukrainian forces and separatist rebels in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which declared independence from Kiev following Russia's annexation of the southern Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in March. In recent weeks, the cathedral church in Donetsk and a nearby convent have been seized by armed rebels. Local church sources in Luhansk report that priests are in constant danger.